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The Dezhou Circus

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I wrote the following article on June 20th, 2010 but almost immediately removed it from my website because I felt it was negative and did not accurately reflect the wonderful time I was having in China. Over a year has passed since I wrote this short article, and with the benefit of hindsight I can say that, while I would never want to visit the Dezhou circus again, I do not regret going. It was a life changing experience, like being imprisoned in South Africa, taken hostage by a mad man, or serving in the military at a time of war. I do not think this article captures the bizarre, dream-like  events or the oppressive heat and thick air, but hopefully it will entertain. – Devon

Dezhou Circus "Gongfu Master"

Stay in school.

I haven’t been to a Western circus, let alone a Chinese circus, in years, so I had no idea what to expect when we went to a Chinese circus near Dezhou today. I only hoped there wouldn’t be depressed animals  paraded around in the 37 degree heat. Ignoring both the obese lethargic tiger (who required prodding to leave his cage) and the wolf made to jump through hoops (despite sporting a limp), the circus was excellent. It defied my expectations by creating a David Lynch dream-like atmosphere, an atmosphere I continue to re-experience, like deja vu.

After a brief sleep (2AM bedtime, 7:45AM wakeup), shower, and breakfast the day started at 9 AM in a mercifully air conditioned bus to the circus. Upon arrival we met Katie, an  tour guide who took 3 years of English at university and spoke relatively well. Like the Chinese tour guides we saw at the Summer Palace and Forbidden City in Beijing,  she carried a pointer with a flag on it in one hand and a loudspeaker in the other. These attention-getting tools nearly made up for her diminutive stature and voice. She also required we wear matching hats, likely to make it easier to quickly usher us from location to location. Were it not for her prodding, we may have missed a lot of the terrors to follow. For assisting in the madness, she deserves a special place in hell. On a positive note, working in the Dezhou circus should count as double time against her sentence to eternal damnation. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Devon Ireland

October 17th, 2011 at 3:38 pm

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Dancing on “The World’s Most Dangerous Hike”

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The World’s Most Dangerous Hike

After visiting Jiuzhaigou, we had two options: Fly north and visit the desert or fly east and return to Xi’An. Perhaps our thinking was muddled from the altitude — at 3500m above sea level, Jiuzhaigou’s airport is the 3rd highest in China and has an oxygen bar that is extremely popular with travellers — but we chose to return to Xi’An so we could hike Mt. Hua Shan. Hua Shan has occupied a spot in my mind since I saw pictures of its seemingly horrifying plank walk several years ago.

Why would anyone willingly walk along this path?

Thankfully, it is not as dangerous as it looks, and safety lines now exist to clip into.

Written by Devon Ireland

March 14th, 2011 at 4:43 am

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Tiger Leaping Gorge

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Slicing between the 5500m Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and the 5400m Haba Snow Mountain, the powerful Yangtze River creates Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest and most impressive canyons in the world (the deepest according to the Chinese). To add perspective, the Yangtze River is the longest in Asia. Its flanking mountains stretch nearly as high Mount Logan (5900m), Canada’s tallest mountain, and they eclipse any mountain in Alberta or British Columbia. In fact, the elevation of Lijiang, a small city 2 hours from the gorge, is 2300m – 2400m — higher than Lake Louise, Sunshine Village, and about the same height as Panorama.In places, the gorge plunges over 3000m and narrows to less than 20m, making the 25km trek absolutely stunning.

With its imposing scale, powerful rapids, and otherworldly environs it is no wonder that the gorge inspired a local legend. As the story goes, a group of hunters pursued a tiger down to one of the most narrow parts of the canyon, an area where the already fast-moving Yangtze is compressed, intensifying into impassible rapids that clap against each other in unrestrained chaos. Rather than succumb to the hunters, the tiger leaped from a stone to a ledge on the other side of the river. As my pictures will demonstrate, this ledge is surrounded by 3000m cliffs, so I am not sure what happened to the tiger after initially escaping the hunters. Perhaps it disappeared into thin air as one version of the story goes. Adding to the gorge’s legend, in the mid-80s a group of adventurers attempted to canoe through the gorge. Like the tiger, they were never seen again.

In any case, the canyon’s geography and legend  have earned it praise from all except the most jaded. Thus, Tiger Leaping Gorge consistently made its way onto our itinerary. On July 13th, we discovered it was worth the hype.

I will write more later. Enjoy the pics for now and/or check out the videos on facebook.

Written by Devon Ireland

July 16th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

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