The International Steam Pages

Shibanxi Holiday 2009 - Huangdan Hike

Click here for the main Shibanxi Holiday 2009 page.

Since writing this page, we have used more routes to Huangdan in 2010.

One is a continuation of the walk described in Bagou Follies, using either half to get to the village of Tong Qian Ao.

The other is a continuation of the Bagou Huancun ridge walk described in Bagou Short Circuits.

It was time for another 'Long March', this time to Huangdan, a small town south-west of Bagou, in the bottom left of the map below. Unlike the walk to Ma Miao which was downhill all the way, this one would involve climbing into the hills before descending to the river.


As such, we would hesitate to recommend it to anyone who is not reasonably fit - and unless you are exceptionally resourceful you will probably need a Chinese speaker with you as there are a myriad of paths, trails and dirt roads in the hills. However, if you want an excellent opportunity to see rural Sichuan then it's well worth the effort and there's just a little bit of railway interest along the way...

On best local advice we headed to Huangcun past the new winder and on up the valley path where we paused briefly at the Monkey Temple - upper are two mother gods, below are the landlord and landlady for a good harvest according to Yuehong:


From here it is a stiff climb up stone steps, eventually near the top we came out near a house which was served by a brand new truck road system. While this may have made the going easier, it was totally confusing as far as the directions we had received were concerned as the original path had vanished and there was no-one around to ask for help. We knew we had to go downwards and branched on to a side track where the environmental damage of uncontrolled (and definitely illegal) clearance was all too plain to see.

The hillsides are being logged for short-term gain. Like any visitor to China, I was well aware of the side-effects of over rapid industrialisation but this was the first time I had seen such effects on 'green China'. 'Live for today and f*** the future' seems to be the by-words here. The new 'road' had obstructed the path down and it took quite a while to find it (it was behind the earth mover shown), but then at least we could enjoy the natural beauty of the area. Emerging from what is still in effect 'rain forest' we found ourselves heading back into an inhabited area:

While the terraced rice fields were definitely in harmony with nature, hardly 'untouched by progress' was one of the local houses:

Worse was to come... A couple of years ago this 'cliff' would have been covered in greenery as most of the lower valley walls still are. Construction of a new truck road has caused devastation. All the trees, ferns and bamboo have gone and what passes for topsoil here has been washed down to the valley below. All to make some corrupt officials and businessmen a little bit richer.

We walked on past an incongruous rust-bucket coking plant and some three hours after leaving Bagou found ourselves on the sealed road some 2km east of Huangdan. We topped up on water and beer and jumped on a couple of motorbike taxis into town. Here we alighted when we passed a delightful small scale coal mine. At this point Peter Nettleship wisely decided to take the easy way back to Bagou on a motorbike taxi - I believe it took about 40 minutes and offered severe masochistic pleasure to the nether regions. There are buses to Shixi and Qianwei the last one leaves about 15.30 and just connects with the last train up to Bagou

Being made of sterner stuff, after lunch we joined the original narrow path which went straight up the hill above the mine affording views which undoubtedly over-stated Huangdan's beauty:

Way up the hill we crossed a ridge and found ourselves above the same valley we had descended earlier:


We found a different and better path up most of the rest of the climb, emerging near a traditional 2005 built grave for an old lady:


Following the nearby truck road we were treated to a further panoramic view of the damage caused by earlier (foreground) and current (background) logging, not a pretty sight at all:


We were keen to avoid retracing our morning journey so followed the wide track to the top of the hill. Here we made the only major mistake of the day by choosing a well worn track that ended ten minutes later in a small group of houses. We sunk our last beer and retraced our steps to the previous junction where we found a newly developed track down to a couple of houses:


Below them lay a steep alternative descent to Huangcun whence we gingerly returned to Bagou, again it had taken us about three hours. A fabulous (and energetic) day out after which we awarded ourselves a morning in bed listening to the trains going past. You can see from the pictures that we had chosen a good day for the hike and hadn't missed anything on the railway...

Rob Dickinson