The coalminer’s daughter

Leaving Yulin we headed back into the now infamous rolling plains of the Shaanxi province, riding the rollercoaster of hills and dongas, dodging our way into the north and the biggest coal mining area in China and the world. Going was a little easier as we could negotiate our way trough a web of dirt roads leading in and out of the mines along the wall and towers.

In the early morning the coal smoke lay thick in the valley like mist, as the sun climbed you could see the black coal dust twinkling in the sun light, it was everywhere. Stirred up by the tractor driven dump wagons, which buzzed in and out of tunnels in the mountain side to the giant crushers, the coal trucks labouring aver laden out of the valleys, the dust was everywhere. The dirt roads were glistening like black velvet as our feet crunched along the half frozen mat of coal powder. The vegetation had a black crust from the years of dust fallout. The area looked like a film set from a medieval industrial town.

All along the villages you would see helmeted miners returning from their shift, only their eves not blackened from their days toil in middle earth, the drivers of the mini dump trucks even blacker from their trips into the mine, some of the tunnels up to 5km into the mountains.

We rounded a bend and ahead of us was 1 of the support vehicles and Pia, who informed us that they had met a miner who wanted a picture of us with his family as they had never seen a foreigner – no problem. The family was in a tented camp along the road. The husband and wife were ready and waiting for the picture, Braam and I went over to pose, but were told to wait by Pia as the coalminers daughter was still getting ready. Braam’s ears pricked up and he mentioned he had heard a great story regarding this and would share it with me later.

In the door of the framed tent we could see the miners daughter silhouetted, kneeling and combing her bush of jet black hair, glistening in the sunlight , flicking it forward and combing it and then throwing it back again and gathering it into a thick tail and twisting it up onto her head. At this Braam mentioned that he thought that I should stand behind him with the miner as I was taller and he would then pose between the two ladies. All agreed.

I was looking over my shoulder at something, when I suddenly felt Braam squeezing in between the miner and me, mumbling that he felt that is was better that the men all stood together for the pic I was a bit confused, but looking down at the ladies lay my answer. It turned out that the daughter was actually the miner’s mom.

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