Spider-men “rebirth” amid epidemic

GUIYANG, China (Xinhua) – Earlier this year was the first time that Luo Dengping, a 40-year old woman, from the Miao ethnic group in southwest China’s Guizhou province, had not performed rock climbing for tourists for three months since she started doing so more than 10 years ago.

“We did not perform the sport from February to April, just because of the COVID-19 epidemic and some reconstruction work in this scenic area,” Luo said. Luo lives in a small village located to the gate of the Getu River Scenic Spot. She works there and her job is to perform rock climbing for tourists from home and abroad.

To the Miao people in this area, one who is good at rock climbing is known as a “spider-man”. Luo’s father is an excellent climber who taught Luo the climbing skills.

“When I was a child, I was obsessed with this sport. Every time I saw my father practise it, I begged him to teach me, but he refused, until he once found that I climbed up a rock wall sneakily following his steps,” Luo said.

“It’s risky that we climb just with our hands and that is why my father was reluctant to teach me at the beginning,” Luo added. “This sport needs courage, and every time we climb, we must assess the surroundings and our body condition.”

Climb according to one’s ability while being bold and careful. This is the key piece of advice Luo learned from her father. She gradually turned professional and was hired as a spider-woman by the local authority years after she got married at the age of 20.

In addition to Luo, five other spider-men were hired. They perform in a cave where there are tens of thousands of swallows nest. Firstly, they need to row a bamboo raft into the cave. Then they climb the rock walls up to a height of around 100 metres. After that, they return to the starting point. The whole process takes no more than 20 minutes.

“I feel happy when I see people happy in the process,” Luo said. She receives a salary of USD420 per month from the work.

But things changed after the epidemic. The scenic spot postponed reopening for almost a month compared with the same period of the past years, and the reconstruction work cut off access to the cave. This situation lasted for three months.

“When you get used to performing for the tourists, you feel uncomfortable without doing it for three months,” said Huang Xiaobao, a 58-year old spider-man, adding that in order to keep their bodies in shape, they occasionally practised rock climbing after finishing their temporary cleaning work.

“We restarted performing and regained happiness from the first day of May,” Huang said, emphasising that performing attracts tourists to focus on and take part in this sport.

“I am getting old and I hope to see more people participate in it,” Huang added. “Life is unpredictable just like this epidemic, what people should do is to seize time to do what they like.”

Deputy General Manager of the company Li Wensong said that the area will attract more tourists after the reconstruction work is finished, which will give rise to a surge in interest in rock climbing.

“In the end, the epidemic will disappear. I am looking forward to seeing the sport become more popular along with the development of this scenic spot,” Luo said.