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Arthur's Birthday Camping Adventure

I had my friend Nicki over for lunch a few weeks back and we were talking about Arthur's upcoming birthday. I was thinking about organising a camping trip since he's a big outdoor fan. We just had to find a good location. And then just like that the Universe chose one for us. Evan and Xiaoli asked us a few days later if we wanted to join them on a camping trip to their friend's beautiful little village which was about 4-5 hour drive from Dali. YES please! Even though we were right smack in the middle of rainy season, we were going for it.

So we organised a couple of friends and the 10 of us set off in 3 cars and a motorbike the following weekend. Miraculously the rain stopped that morning as we set out and I hoped our luck would last. We were only going for 2 nights, but as usual we brought everything including the kitchen sink with us.

Gotta be prepared for anything in the great outdoors!

We drove smoothly for about 2 hours on the highway. Chinese highways are so empty and very cheap. The toll fee cost 56rmb (S$11). We turned off the highway and stopped at a fish restaurant for lunch and a rest before we tackled the mountain dirt roads. We also had to wait for Evan, who was the lone ranger coming on his motorbike.

Rest and lunch stop

Fresh fish boiled with local vegetables

The village we were heading to was only another 20-30 km away from the restaurant but the dirt roads were so hazardous, it'd take us almost 2 hours to get there. But our bellies were full and legs were stretched so we were ready to resume our adventure into the mountains. The sky seemed to be holding so we got moving before it changed it's mind.

Our fearless leader Xiaoli led the way in her 4x4, 2.6 litre mountain utility vehicle. We followed her in our trusty 4x4-wannabe. They call it going off-road for good reason and I have new found respect for our little 2x2 city-slicker of a vehicle, my guts and Arthur's driving skills.

We've arrived at 小村! It literally translates to Little Village

Upon arrival we met Xiaoli's friend from Little Village, Wuli. We were all happy to be off the road at this point I think. We walked around the lush compound, eating apples fresh from the tree. Wuli called us "Team Sun". We had brought the sun along with us. It had been raining non-stop until then. How lucky were we!

Wuli showing us where he's trying to grow anise plants

Team Sun!

The freshest apples you're gonna get, straight off the tree

Arthur likes his apples

We set up camp quickly as the grey clouds approached. But our luck continued, we had a small drizzle which stopped after a while.

We made it! Enjoying our first apero of the trip.

Fairy lights. Check.

We had a pretty relaxed first night, after dinner we had some easy drinks by the fire and gazed at the gazillion stars above us.

The next morning, lo and behold, it was clear skies and GLORIOUS. We couldn't believe our luck and we enjoyed every second of it. After breakfast, we set off on a trek to explore the beauty of the mountains around us.

Setting off on our trek

The "easy" trek took about 3 hours and coming down was harder than climbing up. But the views were magnificent and totally worth the effort. We made our way down the mountain back to base camp where we all "died" for a couple of hours. We needed to rest before the main event a.k.a. Arthur's birthday dinner that evening!

My friends helped a lot by bringing everything that we needed for a scrumptious birthday dinner. We had a beautiful pork roast from Xiaoli, Nicki prepared a wonderful cheese and saucisson platter, we bought some wild mushrooms from the local villagers, Evan brought homemade sausages, bacon and cured salmon. Wuli's wife gave us 2 fish they had just caught which we made into a soup, it was a feast! Throw in a couple of nice bottles of vino, lots of festive decorations, a surprise birthday brownie and presents, good tunes and great friends, it was fantastic. What made it even more special was that it was also 火把节. Huobajie is a local annual fire festival. All the villagers came down to our campsite and lit fire torches as part of the celebration, to drive away everything bad and welcome all that is good. We danced around the fire with our torches, (Prodigy's Firestarter was playing on the boombox) it was such a high and it couldn't have been more magical. We all felt so blessed to be part of it. Especially Arthur I believe.

The night ended at some point. I suspect when the booze ran out. No one really remembers much. A sign of a great party. As we retreated into our tents, the skies opened up and all the rain that had been collecting in the big sky bucket over the weekend eventually spilled over and it POURED.

I kept thinking, "how lucky are we!"

Happy birthday, Arthur.

From me and everyone else who loves you.

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