Day 6 – West Hill and Lake Dianchi, by Emily Zhu ’15

For our first weekend here in Kunming, we had plans to visit some natural areas in Kunming. However, for the past couple days, it has been raining frequently, and there has been a lot of flooding; consequently, we began our morning with a meeting with all the teachers and students instead. During the meeting, we discussed wetlands and how they benefit us, as well as the economic and philosophical aspects of preserving and destroying nature.

When the rain had cleared, we made our way to West Hill Mountain, a towering misty mountain of 600 meters. On our way up, we encountered several Buddhist temples. At one such temple, there was a small pot with a dragon’s head on the bottom. Supposedly, if you dropped a coin into the water and it sank into the dragon’s mouth, then good luck would come to you. We also stopped to rest at an outlook from the tunnel through the mountain. Although the tunnel was machine-made, this spot supposedly was chiseled out by just one person. Throughout our hike, we were able to see much of Kunming from a bird’s eye view. After hiking approximately 2 kilometers, we finally reached the top. Despite the rain, we had all put on sunscreen and bug spray and for good reason- the sun finally appeared and mosquitos and other bugs came out as well. From the top of the mountain, the lake seemed beautiful and clean. However, when we made our way back to the parking lot by chair lift and cable car, we could see the abundant algae and pollution as we passed over the lake. One interesting aspect of the lake was the small but numerous solar panels that were spread across the lake. At first, we wondered why they did not simply create bigger panels and place them at the shore. We also noticed that the panels were at different angles, so we hypothesized that they were placed in this formation was to capture the sun at different times throughout the day and even if clouds blocked the sunlight in some spots..

Our next destination was a natural wetland in Kunming. We took a bridge through a marshy area and were able to examine many organisms along the way, such as algae and a water lily. In honor of Nelson Mandela Day, we also made an effort to pick up any trash in our way. Our path took us to Dianchi Lake, which we had seen previously in the cable car. At the lake, we also took a break to skip stones and eat fruit. We also used this chance to compare the two wetlands- one natural and one manmade. Using water bottles, we collected water samples from the lake and the wetland to compare them; the sample from the natural wetland looked very similar to tea, while the water from the lake was more like pool water. In both, we could see some of the microscopic organisms floating in the water.

Though tiring, the day was a lot of fun and we learned a lot about wetlands. It was interesting to see some of the topics we discussed in class applied to the places we visited and to visit more of Kunming.

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