The land northwest of Anshun forms a tumultuous barrier of jagged peaks and deep valleys, all tamed by the Guiyang–Kunming road and rail line, both masterpieces of engineering. The reason to head up this way is to catch wintering birdlife at Caohai (草海, căohăi) the “Grass Lake”, which fills about a 5km-broad shallow basin, the core of a regional nature reserve. Wintering wildfowl shelter here in huge numbers, including 400 rare black-necked cranes (黑颈鹤, hēijĭng hè). Walk down to the lake and you’ll be approached by touts wanting to take you out on a boat trip. The Chinese head first for a meal at the hamlet of Longjia (龙家, lóngjiā) on the far shore, famed for its food. On a sunny day, Caohai’s overall tranquillity is a complete break with daily life in China; wintering cranes often hang out in the shallows near the shore and are not too hard to catch on camera.
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