FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Staying alive

Posted in China, Zhalai Nuoer by folkestonejack on February 21, 2009

A second afternoon at the pit under much better light gave us every opportunity to improve on our efforts from yesterday. This time the buses parked up at the top of the pit on the same side that the locomotives were working, not too far from one of the routes taken by the workers to get down to the mine.

Finding the way down was sometimes harder than it seemed as some of the levels were completely iced over. On one occasion I happily followed some guys along one such level but it was just too slippery for me. I slipped over and found myself sliding towards the edge until I could use the weight of my rucksack to bring my glide to a stop. I decided to carefully retreat and stay alive!

Perfectly blue sky

Perfectly blue sky

I found another way down and explored the middle tier of levels. It seemed quieter than yesterday but then again there seemed to be more locomotives working at the lowest levels where we hadn’t seen any previously.

On one level there were alot of track workers who I initially assumed were fixing the track but a couple of the guys pointed out that they were actually laying small cylindrical charges of dynamite (worringly, I had missed this slightly crucial detail!). As none of us had heard any explosions yet it seemed prudent not to head back that way anytime soon…

Later, when a group of us were heading back, we found ourselves waved back by a worker holding a red flag. We could see then that the locomotives on each level had been halted by more men with red flags. Moments later there was an immense cracking sound as an explosion echoed around the mine. A cloud of grey dust climbed into the air and then the silence was broken by a sudden return to activity around the mine as locomotives started moving again and workers moved forward into the area recently dynamited.

Aftermath of an explosion

Aftermath of an explosion

I had a truly remarkable day in the pit and I’m fairly sure its one that will still raise a grin from me when I’m old and grey. It was a day of incredible highs punctuated by some rather scary moments without detracting from the whole experience. I managed to fall over about five times (including once on the final climb back up to the buses) so I ended the day with rather sore knees and ankles. The finest moment came at the end as we watched the sun set over the pit – a more glorious sight you couldn’t imagine.

Sunset at Zhalai Nuoer

Sunset at Zhalai Nuoer

After a long day I quickly dozed off on returning to the hotel, almost missing dinner. Having said that, I think the sight of sweet potato in toffee with hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top is one sight I could easily have missed without any regrets!

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