Nandan 2001 Expedition Expedition report

Expedition report:

Erin in Bai Ku Yao costume

Nandan is a small town in the north of Guangxi Province in China. To get there you take the bus from Guilin to Hechi, and then on to Nandan. The town is bigger than Leye, and has been open to Westerners for several years. It is home to the Bai Ku Yao minority nationality.

Rob, Olly, and Erin spent 2 weeks caving in Nandan. The caves were horizontal, with old high-level fossil passages often intersecting the active stream passages. The caves were big and beautiful, with many skylights to illuminate them (perfect for tourists, in our opinion).

Erin's brother, Brian, joined the expedition for a few days. He was ambivalent about the caving, but enjoyed the air conditioned hotel.

We stayed in a very posh hotel, a long commute from the caving area, but at least the food was good--especially the fried wasp and maggot combo. Actually it tasted worryingly like French Fries.

Dinner at the hotel

To the left is a fairly typical Chinese hotel banquet:  far more food than you could possibly eat (even on a caving expedition), and the dishes keep coming, even after you've stopped eating. Note the beer glassesí¬a high tolerance is a prerequisite for joining any caving expedition in China. At lunch and dinner (but thankfully not breakfast) local dignitaries would toast us with a cry of "Ganbei!", which means dry the cup. Of course, we wouldn't want to be rude and refuse.

While we were in Nandan, we surveyed 10 kilometres, often with the help of local guides. In one case, the locals had constructed a path through the cave at a high level to avoid the water. They built several bamboo bridges across the water, and even installed a bamboo and polypro ladder. We tried not to look too closely at the anchors. It was nevertheless an impressive feat of engineering.

Rob, Erin and a local paddling in Skylight Cave

Our work in Nandan was aimed at developing a boat ride for tourists through the stream caves. The idea certainly had potential...   during our exploration we would survey upstream, and then float back down on rubber tyre innertubes. This could be done in some cases for kilometres at a time. Caving really doesn't get much better than this.

Caving always seems to be newsworthy in China, and Nandan was no exception.   As we surveyed along, we were often accompanied by Luo Jie Jie, a reporter from the Hechi TV station. She was a surprisingly keen caver, although she didn't seem to like getting muddy.