Our "Secret Forest" has reopened and I took a trip there today to see how well our den had survived the Winter ...basically, it hasn't!
It's now just a pile of branches and sticks. It doesn't look like it has been deliberately dismantled by anyone - it probably just collapsed during one of the many wind and rain storms of recent months. It's quite a shame after six years of building and repairing it, but I guess we won't be in Kunming too much longer, so it's not the disaster it might have been had it happened 2-3 years ago. Bye bye den!
Despite JD's four regular weekend classes, we still try to find time to get out and about, and the Secret Forest is usually our number one destination while it's still open (it closes in the dry season). Our den continues to grow and develop and JD enjoys inviting different friends to come and get the guided tour. The friend above is "Johnny" who was a classmate of JD's at Kindergarten and recently moved into a flat a few doors down from us. There's always some surprising wildlife too.
JD and I have been gradually extending our den in the Secret Forest. We started it about four years ago with a little stick house, big enough for JD and a friend to sit in. Later we added gateways to either side.
Last year, alongside the regular repairs and small improvements, we started to construct a fence around the area in front of the den's door. Then, this Summer I've begun to put up a roof to cover the fenced enclosure while JD has started to make a little garden in one corner.
The forest is only open in the Summer once the rainy season starts, because of the perceived fire risk. So we have to get cracking once we're let in!
The "Secret Forest" opened again last week now that the wet season has begun again here. JD and I apprehensively searched out our den to see if had survived the last six months. And survive it had! We've visited twice more since and added a rather pretty arch feature to the side of the main structure.
We call it the "Secret Forest" as it seems that only a handful of people know about it and we seldom meet more than 2-3 other people on a typical afternoon visit. In a noisy and crowded city like Kunming, it really is an oasis of peace, solitude and natural beauty.
JD and I spent a fun afternoon the other day playing in a local forest with a Vietnamese family we know. Their Mum teaches Vietnamese at my University and the two kids only speak that and Chinese. So JD had to switch from the English he was using with our American friends yesterday to Chinese! We brought along a small play tent and digging tools and so the kids tried to build a Great Wall with rocks and mud!
With our favourite forest retreat closed over the Winter and Spring (for fear of forest fires ...too many "f"s there!!), JD has had to be content with making indoor dens under the dining table!
But yesterday, JD and I decide to see if our "secret forest" had reopened and, if so, check on the state of our den there. To our delight the barrier was up and the den proved to be in great condition. JD even managed to scale the den walls to add extra bark to the roof.
JD and I headed back to our secret forest this morning and were delighted to find our Den in remarkably good shape. I reinforced it and added a side compartment while JD dug a hefalump trap outside with his newly bought digging tool. Then afterwards we headed into town for fish 'n chips - a late birthday treat to myself.
JD really enjoyed digging holes with his classmates, putting in the tree and watering it afterwards. Then there were snacks for the kids followed by some fun runaround games with little prizes. And thankfully the rain held off until the drive home.
JD had just a half day at school today (due to International Women's Day earlier in the week and the predominantly female staff at his school). So I picked him up midday and we spent the afternoon with two of his school friends, and the father of one of them. We started in a small University wood where the kids spent an hour digging with various tools and construction toys I'd brought along.
An old play area there had broken concrete slides from another era. The steps to the top had all disappeared and there were worrying-looking metal spikes sticking out through the stone, but we lifted the kids up to the top for a couple of slides, before having a go myself.
We then decided to drive to the larger forest where JD and I often go. We climbed the hill there and JD and I showed his friends the den we had made. Unfortunately, after an hour or so, a forest ranger approached us and, rather embarrassed, said we would have to leave as, during the dry season, people were only let in to visit the temple. Playing in the woods was apparently a fire hazard, despite torrential rain yesterday and none of us smoking or planning a bonfire. Stupid rule, but this is China and when your only job is guarding trees, it's what you do.
So we headed off to the Yunnan University campus where we played chasing games with the boys followed by some drinks and snacks. It was a nice warm half-day and I feel we made the most of it.
GoKunming.com is the main website used by expats in Kunming. They recently ran an article about a new discovery - a temple hidden away in a secluded forest. That's OUR forest! JD and my SECRET forest!! I do hope we don't get an influx of strangers wandering around. We went there today to build a den [see photo] and saw no one else at all, so that bodes well for now.
JD and I met up with our friends Nancy (Uni colleague), Zaden and Kaiya (her kids) yesterday to explore the forest we found recently some 15 mins bike ride away. According to the guard at the gate of the forest we are not meant to be there, but we've managed to sweet-talk our way in each time so far! JD loves it there - collecting nuts, digging holes, playing with sticks, climbing trees and building mouse houses.
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