Tian’e is a small county town that lies on the Hongshui River. Its focal point is a large arched concrete bridge that spans the river from the town centre to the more residential part of town. At this point, the river is well below the level of the town, which is very wise considering the volumes of water that are funnelled through the narrow Longtan Gorge upstream. Banded watermarks on the fluted limestone outcrops at river level indicate the peaks of flow. The gorge itself is steeply sided, bounded by the high karst hills on either side and fantastic views can be seen from the newly developed Forest Park perched above the town. Along its straights, roads stretch into the distance on both sides until after a few miles a huge dam project is encountered. The gorge’s flanks have been stripped back to sound rock and pinned with steel rods to provide a secure anchorage to the hillside. Massive quarrying operations in the vicinity of Wei Dong cave can be found nearby with pumping stations, stone washing facilities and stockpiles of stone ready to be ferried to the site by towering conveyor belts. The dam itself is set to be one of the largest in the world and houses a gigantic turbine chamber second to none.

Once this project is operational, Tian’e and the surrounding area will be supplied with copious amounts of power that will fuel industry and the economy of the region. Tian’e itself is already preparing a development zone on the outskirts of town. A infrastructure of access roads are under construction and an isolated karst cone is being nibbled away for its limestone. We passed through this zone on our way to Brikkiln Cave that may provide a small tourist attraction due to its proximity to the town itself. This fictitious name was given due to the brick works located close to the entrance. A cement works is also found nearby.

Also within striking distance are other caves including ‘Cemetery Cave’, Ba Dong and the magnificent Chang Dong whose spectacular entrance portal is entered by boat. Opportunities for new finds also exist in the scenic Dung Lee and Tu Dong village areas. Further afield to the south on the borders with neighbouring Fengshan County, is the impressive San Gui Shui Tiankeng outside Lao Pung village. This is a large doline feature whose delicate ecosystem 82m below is encompassed by its overhanging cliffed sides. A significant cave leads off which was explored for the first time.