The local maps of this section of the Li River shows dozens of karsks with colorful names. Mountains with names like "The Wakening Frog", “Woman Admiring Her Reflection” and "Frog Crossing River". During this day Doug Hamilton had a frog jump down into his lap of the cliff. This must be the “frog crossing river” so he let it sit on the deck of the boat. It was content to sit there for a few hours. Later in the afternoon we found a weir, a submerged concrete bar across the river, with a great surfing wave behind it. As Doug tried to ride this wave, which takes some concentration, his frog jumped of the deck and into his face! Doug lost the wave and the frog.
On the very first day, when we first got in the water, most of us noticed that there were lots of little snails growing in it. Both Penny Wells and I looked up at each other and mused about schistosoma. This is a parasitic disease in China that we both knew about. The parasite has a life cycle that involves living in a snail for a while, and then entering large mammals through the skin. We shrugged about this and went on wading in the water. On many days we saw little red globs on the side of the river that looked like little raspberries washed up at the waterline. I guessed that these were snail egg masses, and when I asked Joe Petolino what he thought they were, he suggested snail eggs before hearing me suggest the same thing.
Then while Jenning Gee and I were separated from the rest of the group for a while, Jenning saw some of these little raspberries and asked me if I knew what they were. I told her that Joe and I both thought they were snail egg masses. “Snails?” asked Jenning, looking down into the water, “Are there snails in this water?” When I said of course, haven’t you seen them every day? Jenning started shouting to everyone else “SNAILS! LOOK OUT! DON’T TOUCH THE WATER! SNAILS!” We gave Jenning a hard time about being our group worrier. She worried about everything so that we didn’t have to.
In the town of Yangshuo we found several internet cafes and I sent an email off to a friend of mine, Beverly Braid, who is a microbiologist studying abalone diseases at the Bodega Marine Laboratory. I asked her if she could give us information about schistosoma. She researched it and assured us that the disease is considered eradicated in southern China and is only a problem north in the Yangtze River. It can only live in a particular species of snail. And even if they were in the Li River they are a rather benign parasite and we could not get enough of them to cause harm in only one week on the water. Beverly went on to say that there is a theory that the lack of parasites in our clean water and food in the USA is one of the reasons that Americans get more allergy and auto-immune diseases. So getting a few parasites could lower our risk of future auto-immune diseases later in life. I told my kayaking buddies that you could just let the parasites live in your gut and give them names, like Fred and Martha. There was no need for us to worry about snails.
At the end of the day we pulled into the town of Xingping. There was a mild drop in the water just before the calm water of the river around the dock. Where the fast water met the calm water there was a rip current! A fun place to play with large standing waves! Almost as exciting as Yellow Bluff in the San Francisco Bay. I looked forward to coming back to this spot in the morning when we continued our trip.