CHONGQING, Aug. 11 (Xinhua) -- Wuxia Gorge along the Yangtze River is home to a very special species, the gorge spiderman, and one rare gorge spiderwoman.
Their habitat, the towering gorge that reaches up to 100m in some parts, is prone to landslides. This is where the gorge spidermen come in: They scale the cliff face with their bare hands and secure climbing ropes into crevices in the rocks. These ropes help the workers stay safe as they inspect and reinforce the mountain.
When reinforcing a large area of rock face, holes must be drilled into the mountain so that steel rods can be inserted and cement poured into the nooks and crannies.
"We need to get our work done before high noon -- when it is too hot," said team leader Tao Shiwei. Tao, along with many others, are employed by Wushan land and resources authority to repair landslides.
"When we finish with this one, we will inspect another mountain," he said.
If there has been a particularly large landslide, the spidermen must install scaffolding and may have to camp out on the platforms for days at a time.
Zhou Huang, deputy director of a geological monitoring station in Wushan County, explained that Tao is working at the site of a huge landslide on Nov. 23, 2008. Part of the mountain, he said, crashed straight into the river. Sporadic landslide have occurred ever since.
Workers have spent more than two months trying to repair the damage wreaked by the most recent landslides, Zhou said.
"Now that environment protection is a national priority, we have received more funding to support our work," he said, adding that there was enough work for more spidermen to be recruited in the future.
Close to 100 geological hazards, mostly landslides, have been recorded this year alone at Wushan. Some of them were triggered by heavy rain during the recent bout of floods.
BRAVING HEAT AND DANGER
The spidermen toil from dawn to dusk and only rest at midday. "The humidity around the river can be overbearing," said Wang Zubing, 53.
During the midday sun, the team retire to their boat on the river, and stay below deck where it is dark and cool. Working in such stifling heat is rather dangerous.
Wang always carries a bottle of Huoxiang Zhengqi, a traditional Chinese medicine to prevent heat stroke. He says it's his favorite drink.
Ni Chuntang and Wang Hua, who are both in their 20s, have the hardest jobs: they must haul the cement pour pipe up the mountain face and fix issues along the precipice.
They only wear shorts, but a thick layer of cement covers their torsos like a coat. "The cement won't come off with detergent or shower gel. It can only be washed away with a special oil made from seeds," said Wang.
Wang's hometown is hundreds of kilometers away in Guizhou, and Ni is from Yunnan.
"The phone signal is poor between the gorges," he said.
When the workers rest on their ship, it is hard not to notice the long scar on the shoulder of Tao Shiliang, one of the seasoned workers.
Two months ago, Tao missed a step while he assembling scaffolding.
"I was lucky enough to be stuck in between the scaffold. Small injuries don't matter, as long as they do not keep us from working," he said.
The most skilled worker can earn 200 yuan (around 30 U.S. dollars) for a day's work, and the people with poorer skills like Lyu Wenlian, the only woman in the group, earn 100 yuan a day.
Many say the arduous work is too much for a woman, but Lyu, 48, has worked on the team for three years.
Her husband is handicapped. One of her sons has learning difficulties and the other is away at university. She is the breadwinner.
"I do the less demanding work. The pay is handsome enough, and besides, you get used to working so high up," she said.