Chasing Waterfalls

By Jane Mountain | January 27, 2014

8,999 km so far.

It was our intention to sleep late, letting the sound of the surf gently rouse us around 10am or so, but with no curtain on the sliding door in our shared dorm room, that dream died with the sunrise. All was OK though, because it was a beautiful sunny morning, and we were at the beach with nothing to do but chill.

Need To Feed

The Riyue Bay Surf Club runs a little pizza counter in their clubhouse, and we enjoyed a homemade pizza last night. This morning, there was fresh bread!

It’s been ages since we’ve had any kind of real bread. The Chinese version looks like bread and it smells like bread, but it is spongy, sweet, and feather-light. It’s not too different from the cheap white no name bread you can buy at American supermarkets. That is, it is not bread.

The bread at the Surf Club is heavy and chewy and tastes like bread. It might even be made with whole wheat flour. When you go without for a while, something simple like a nice slice of bread can seem extraordinarily luxurious.

Not long after breakfast we biked up to the nearby village to check out a rumoured noodle shop.

small stone home hainan china

Village home, Hainan.

It turned out to be a cute little restaurant, not a noodle shop it all. It was like any village restaurant, but much cleaner, more neatly arranged, and newer.

As we pulled up, we saw that Boris and Josephine, a couple we’d met last night at the surf club, were also just arriving.

We joined them for lunch, and as we ate they told us about their work as artists, and how they are planning to stay in the area for a while to create. I am fascinated by the diverse ways people make a living, and this is yet another to add to the list.

They also told us that they’d heard there was a waterfall a few more kilometres up the road, but they’d never been because it seemed a little too far to walk.

Blue Lagoon

Since the thermometer was hovering around 30C, we decided (despite TLC’s sage advice to the contrary) that a waterfall sounded like a perfect destination for an afternoon bike ride.

Riding through the heat, passing forests of coconut palms, banana trees, durian, and other exotic fruit trees, felt completely surreal. It’s supposed to be the middle of winter, but this is one of the hottest days we’ve had since leaving LA.

Hot in the tropics, Hainan.

Hot in the tropics, Hainan.

A little way up the hill, the road started running parallel to a small river. Not far along, we spotted a small waterfall with a little half-hidden track leading towards the river. We locked up our bikes on a convenient sign post and stepped into another world.

We pushed our way through the underbrush on a prickly, overgrown path, which led to a group of huge boulders, rising about 8 feet above the river. We hoisted ourselves up on the boulders, and doing our very best mountain goat impression, jumped and scrambled from one to the other until we came to a long still pool about 100 meters from the base of the waterfall.

All alone at the waterfall, Hainan.

All alone at the waterfall, Hainan.

The water was the clearest we’ve seen since leaving Sweden. We could see tiny fishes, crabs, and other aquatic life scurrying around on the bottom of the pool.

We were now completely out of sight of the road, and except for a small hut in the distance, there was no sign of people anywhere. This is probably the first time in China that we’ve felt completely alone and completely removed from any human industry.

Chinese nature, Hainan.

Chinese nature, Hainan.

The only way to get closer to the waterfall was to jump in and swim.

Stephen stripped off and climbed into the water. Once he’d confirmed that it was cold, but not too cold, I followed, with my clothes on. Once the water got above waist high, I hung my shirt over a bush (my shorts were already soaked and needed washing anyway) and dove into the water. We splashed our way over to the waterfall and doused ourselves under its pounding flow.

After our outdoor shower, we sat on a flat sunny rock next to the waterfall, reminiscing about our carefree summer wild camping across Scandinavia.

Back To Work

Every perfect afternoon has to end, and pretty soon it was time to swim back, get dressed, and head back to Riyue Bay.

On the way, Stephen spotted this art by the side of the road.

One baby, Hainan.

One baby, Hainan.

We rode along discussing the piece, and soon realised it had to have been done by our lunch companion, Boris. We confirmed our suspicions with him later that evening. Turns out, he is quite well known in European art circles.

Upon arriving home, Stephen insisted that it was bike-cleaning day, so we set about scrubbing the nooks and crannies of our rides until they were sparkling. I am happy to report I worked diligently to clean my bike, taking a full hour to scour every piece of dirt I could find. Even though Stephen had just done them a few days ago, they were once again filled with grit and grease and in much need of a cleaning.

Stephen relaxing after working hard on the bikes, Riyue Bay Surf Club.

Stephen relaxing after working hard on the bikes, Riyue Bay Surf Club.

It is amazing how dirty they can get in a couple of days, and how dirty they’re sure to get again tomorrow when we head inland.  

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