What does a city do when the mines run out of ore? Prostitution and heroin in the case of Gejiu. This is a mere pitstop on my way up to Kunming, and the lush vegetation of the hillsides is punctuated with excavated areas, like raw red sores.
The city centre is not unpleasant, and Gejiu is trying to reinvent itself. The curious lake in the centre is apparently the result of a mishap during the tin-mining heyday when groundwater welled up to the surface and flooded part of the valley. The darker side to the city is covered in an excellent, but I must warn you, rather harrowing photoessay here.
For me this was a point to break the journey, but one chosen because it was useful to reflect on the dilemma facing Gejiu, and the 68 other resource-exhausted cities in China. Could a recycling industry based on the same ores ever generate the same employment, or revenue? Are we able to posit a bioeconomy as an alternative?