Wednesday 5 August

The weather has turned and at around 95oF this lunchtime, we’ve postponed our visit to the local Kiwi orchard until it cools down a bit. This morning we drove to another of the local attractions – a pagoda style tower on the top of a hill overlooking the city. It was interesting to see how the city lay along the river from the top of the fifth floor, but also the new developments springing up on the fringes, including a rudimentary start to a secondary bridge. I would imagine this city of approx 80,000 people will increase by about 50% in the next five years or so.

I have now spent several days as a guest of the Kiwi Institute and their hospitality has been the utmost in generosity. Yesterday we drove out to one of the Kiwi research orchards where they are monitoring the developments of the Red Fruited Kiwi – a speciality of the Changxi county.

Discussing macro-nutrient deficiencies

Discussing macro-nutrient deficiencies

The drive over some extreme terrain took about two hours, migrating on the way from Pothole Road to Crater Road. We got held up at one point because the road had collapsed following the excessive rain of the last few days.


The collapsed road on the way to the Kiwi Research orchard

The remaining part of the journey was quite literally a dirt/stone road and I was very grateful for the suspension. I watched the local bus careening around and hoped very much that I wouldn’t have to experience this again on my journey north to Guangyuan before heading up to Xi’an.

We arrived at the Government Offices in the provincial township of Long Wang where we were treated to a very generous buffet lunch by the officials, and again I was lauded as an example of international relations. Dr Jiang acted as translator at times, but communication for me relied mostly on close observation of others’ behaviour. It was friendly, but slightly formal with the Head Honcho who played his very political part admirably, making elaborate toasts which took one to the edge of thirst before quaffing the thimble-glasses of beer in readiness of the next excuse for a drink!

Then another dirt-track ride to the experimental station which was full of chickens and nasty little black midges, giving my ankles the appearance of a bad rash. Here we did the photography bit and I’ve never been so interested in Kiwi fruit development before! Here I’m fascinated by the yellowing at the edge of the leaf caused by a lack of macro-nutrients; the susceptibility of other experimental varieties to fungal infections; delighted by the emergent star-burst colouration of red in the cut, immature fruit.

Immature red-fleshed Kiwi fruit


Photo-shoot over, its another 2-hour bumpy ride back to Changxi, quick change at the hotel, and out to a Fat Cow restaurant where nearly every dish was wafer-thin slices of beef, some of which were eaten sashimi style, others dropped into your individual hot-pot burner for a few minutes before being dipped into a spicy sauce. One of the dishes didn’t look like meat at all, being thin slices of a dark-grey and white stringy substance. All I got out of Jiang was that “maybe it was the bull”. I had a good idea what that meant and managed one rather tough specimen before abstaining.

Sadly, I haven’t been able to do any painting, but I’m still hopeful that the relationship I’ve built with Dr Jiang and the contact he has with the previous Director of WBG will lead to my being able to finally paint Emmenopterys henryi in flower in the wild in the Hubei province. Dr Jiang is travelling up to Guangyuan with me then back to Wuhan, and I have tried to impress on him my sense of urgency to accomplish this before heading off to Kunming where, I’ve been assured, Eh would have finished flowering a while ago.


Just one of the small villages we sped through


Traditional small farmstead (taken from moving vehicle)