Exploring the Valley
As John recommended to us, we drove to another town, and left the minibus there. We left the bottom of the valley on foot to the higher slope of the mountain ring. While we were climbing, the view became awesome. Because the valley is quite narrow, anyone living in the valley bottom is unaware of the size of Whistle Mountain. After we climbed for an hour, we clearly saw the form of the mountain, which was like an inverted letter 'U'. Its lower slopes were almost vertical, but the upper part was dome-shaped.
Nobody lives on Whistle Mountain (an old lady laughingly said that of course nobody lives on the head of his grandmother), however the residents of the valley and the mountain ring often climb it to participate in ceremonies for special events. For example, when children are born, the family and their friends climb the mountain and dedicate the child to it, and ask it to teach the child its wisdom. Likewise, when someone has a serious problem about something, he goes to the listening cave, and asks for its advice.
As we walked along the footpath that traversed the vineyard, we heard the whistling of the vine workers. I wondered what they were talking about. I understood that the distant sounds were reflected from the vertical walls of Whistle Mountain, so the sounds were very clearly heard.
We arrived at a wine factory. There was a sign on the footpath, which said:
Try our wine and visit the wine-cellars in natural caves.
We went in, and were welcomed by a very fat man wearing a leather apron. He showed us to a seat in the garden behind the building, and brought a plateful of cookies, with cheese and sausage as well. He also brought a bottle of their wine. He explained that their factory produced sparkling wine.
"After you have tasted the wine" he said, " I will show you the wine-cellars, and explain the making of the wine, which is of much interest to visitors"
The wine was very pleasant tasting, in fact, like our best champagnes in France. I said this to the man, and he laughed and said:
"I believe that the French learned champagne making from us.l This wine has been made here for the last many centuries. Before glass bottles were made, we used stone bottles."
We drank a few cups of wine, and ate some cookies. After we finished drinking and eating, the man guided us to the wine-cellar. He loaned us two heavy cloaks, because the wine-cellar was colder than the garden. We went in from the garden by a large opening in the rock wall, and went down a short stairway. The cave containing the wine-cellar was rather low and very long, and branched into many other corridors.
The man explained that sparkling wine is produced by fermentation after the wine has been bottled. He explained that the bottle is kept approximately horizontal on its side, with the neck lower than the body, so that the sediment (the solid material produced during fermentation) collects in the neck. The bottles must be frequently rotated. The sediment is removed from the wine by uncorking the bottle, letting the sediment flow out, and very quickly corking it again, before the wine flows out. In fact, we saw the workers doing that, and they naturally completed this difficult task very expertly.
After visiting the wine-cellar, I bought 12 bottles of wine, and asked for them to be delivered to John's house. I was curious how the bottles would be taken to the valley. There is no road, and the narrowness of the footpath makes it impossible for a truck to get to the factory. The man explained that donkeys were used for this.
We left the factory, and continued climbing the mountain ring. We intended to spend the night at an inn famous for its hotspring. We walked leisurely, marvelling at the ever changing view, and the wildflowers growing along the path.
We arrived at the inn at the end of the afternoon, quite tired from the long walk. So we looked forward to relaxing in the hot water, and immediately took out towels from our backpacks, and went to the hotspring.
The hotspring is higher than the inn. The water comes out of a hole in the rock, and a dragon has been sculpted in relief in the rock over the spring, such that the water seems to come out of the dragon's mouth. The water coming out of the rock is at 80 degrees Celsius, and nobody could bathe in that. However, several small pools were built such that the water flows from the higher to the lower,. and gradually cools. One chooses the temperature that is comfortable. One puts a bundle of fragrant herbs in the hottest pool, so that the water is perfumed, We enjoyed the hot water and the fragrant vapour for a long time, and then returned to the inn for the evening meal, and afterwards tired and satisfied, went to bed.
At the reception desk of the inn, I noticed a brochure published by the inn, and read it. It informed me that hang-gliding flights could be had there. The hot water causes strong upward air currents, so it is possible to make long flights and land at the bottom of the valley. We decided to remain there for a day, to learn how to use a hang-glider, and then make flying visits to other parts of the valley. Now I am very sleepy, Gentle Readers, (yawn) and you must be patient until the next episode is written.