I returned to Yangshuo in mid-Winter, with only a brief Facebook message from West Australian climber/adventurer Logan Barber, who I'd never met, as the only lead on people who I might join up with. I met Logan, we crossed over for my first two days, he was awesome, I'm still getting to him.
But the last person I had the privilege of knowing was the extraordinary Caitlin Bradley.
Early twenties, living, working, studying, adventuring and climbing in China.
What's her story?
It seems a young American girl from North Carolina can make a living in China teaching climbing.
See her on the Black Rock Climbing team page.
After graduating from UNC Chapel Hill she headed to Yangshuo for a climbing holiday. And never left. She does, however, have intentions of returning to do a masters on anthropogenic activities affecting fish populations in fresh water ecosystems.
I recently caught up with Caitlin by email, after a long pause. She says.
"Sorry for the late response, right now I am traveling in Yunnan mainly climbing and hiking, and my internet access has been limited. I used a friends computer that had a VPN".
Being between degrees she's studying Calligraphy, Chinese painting and Chinese cooking. Skills!
Who likes biscuits and gravy for breakfast? Must be a North Carolina thing. I had to google it.
Caitlin misses family breakfasts of biscuits and gravy in their forest home, listening to birds and watching the deer. Horse riding through the forest. Helping her Dad in the garden and fishing, and quilting and cooking with her Mom. I try to picture all that, I make it up from American movies.
For now she's working on American home style cooking, as long as it can be done on one burner, in a wok.
Hearing her melodic mastery of Mandarin, coloured with Southern Drawl is completely dreamy.
I've no idea what she's talking about, but could listen happily all day.
It's Christmas day we are crammed in the back of a mini-van, balancing big filthy packs of climbing gear on our knees. The bumpy road and worn seats are hurting my arse as we return from the crag in the dark. It's cold. Every one's got that glazed-eyed silence. Satisfaction, exhaustion. Caitlin is on the phone to her Mom in Nth Carolina, they are obviously close. You can hear the longing. Mothers with young daughters overseas, they are the same everywhere, concerned, needing skillful reassurance, but ultimately full of pride. She should be.
Thanks Caitlin, for your friendship, yours is an amazing story.