The International Steam Pages

Shibanxi Holiday 2010 - Bagou Short Circuits

Click here for the Shibanxi Holiday 2010 report.

Click here for the extended Shibanxi Holiday 2009 reports.

Got three or four hours to spare between trains in the Bagou area? Why not work off all that excellent food with some light exercise? All of these walks can be completed in the time available, if you are fit, rather less.

1. A gentle stroll on the south side.

Go to the bottom of town where the small bridge crosses the stream below the 'wishing pond'. Go across it and after 100 metres or so turn right on to the truck road. For the next hour or two follow this as it winds in and out of side valleys as it climbs ever higher before following a contour. Apart from just two paths which strike off up the hill and a few more which go down, there is just one junction and you need to take the right fork. To be honest the best part is the first bit where there are excellent views of the town and the railway. In fact, if you time your walk carefully you can incorporate a little steam photography (the second picture was taken in June 2009 when the weather was much better!). 

Further up there are a few small houses and much of the hillside is being cleared, but it's very quiet here and if you take your time the bird song is fascinating.

Eventually you get some views of the old Huangcun mine tip (for more pictures see the Huangcun Horseshoe page) before the dirt road finishes. Never mind, just continue down the small path ahead and on the opposite side of the small valley you will meet a main path coming up. Turn right and make your way down to the middle of the top of the tip area and then descend to just outside Huangcun.

If you want to do this walk in the reverse direction it is almost impossible to spot the turning off the path going up from the tip. Instead take the path which goes up to the right just after the tip OR to save a little time walk up the valley beyond the tip and take the path up to the left. Both join the truck road which you can then follow back down to Bagou.

2. The Three Kings Shrine ('San Huang Miao')

This walk can be combined with Walk 3 below if you have sufficient time - even the Huangcun Horseshoe walk too if you have enough time!

Sometimes it's the journey and not the destination that matters and that is definitely the case here! Go to the bottom of town where the small bridge crosses the stream below the 'wishing pond'. Go across it and after 100 metres ignore the right turn and shortly take the truck road diagonally up the hill with the mobile phone towers above. This gives you excellent views of the town and the railway station. 

Go round the corner at the top and follow the road until you reach a major crossroads. The road ahead will take you to Huangdan (NOT the way described in the 2009 Huangdan Hike) - it's probably the most gentle of the various walking routes there from Bagou. The road to the left leads down to Mamiao (NOT the way described in the 2009 Long March to Mamiao) - see below for more information. Instead turn right and follow the road as it climbs steeply, this is the view looking back east:

Eventually it reaches the high ridge above Bagou with fleeting glimpses of the town square. 

Once on the top it's quite easy going and eventually the road bears left and descends a little. Shortly after a path comes up from the right, this will be your return route to Bagou. However, continue along the truck road past an abandoned small house and quite soon a path branches off to the left. Take the path until you come to the shrine - it's just a boulder with a figure carved in it. 

Continue on a short way and you will rejoin the truck road - for a description of a spectacular walk using it see 'Bagou Follies'. Turn sharp right and follow it back until you reach the path on the left described above. This descends steeply to the valley which is the first one that runs south between Bagou and Huangcun, the scenery is never less than excellent.

In due course, you will reach the truck road described in walk 1 (above). Either turn right on the truck road or follow the path down to the flats at the west side of Bagou.

If you do the walk in reverse, you will need to care on the ascent. Walk up the truck road as in Walk 1 (above) and when it is at its most southerly point in the first valley, turn left on the path that crosses it at right angles. Quite soon you will see a small path striking up the hill on the left while the main path bears right. Go up this small path until you reach the truck road. If you turn right when you meet it, then you can then follow the instructions for the shrine as above but return to Bagou by the truck road - just make sure you turn left at the crossroads behind the mobile phone towers!

3. The Huangcun - Bagou Ridge Path

This walk can be combined with Walk 2 above if you have sufficient time - even the Huangcun Horseshoe walk too if you have enough time!

The start of this walk is the same as for the Huangcun Horseshoe described in detail and illustrated separately. In brief, climb the steep steps on the left coming from Bagou just before Huangcun to the top of the old spoil tip. Half way across a path goes up the side of the rock face on the right, follow this upwards until you reach the ridge. At this point the Huangcun horseshoe walk turns right, instead turn left (straight down to the valley ahead is uncharted territory for us).

Follow the path along the ridge, below on the left you will see the windy truck road described in Walk 1 'A Gentle Stroll on the South Side' above, it's well worth the extra effort to climb up here as the views are splendid. The house in the top right is seen in a later picture.

After a while you will come to a four way junction, the three parts ahead are truck road. Bear slightly left (above Yuehong) and follow the truck road along the ridge, ignoring minor roads on the right side.

There are further views down to the valley on the left looking back towards the Huangcun spoil tip - seen through the haze at the top:

Eventually just as the road bears right and heads downhill, turn left back up the branch road - proceeding onwards and down leads to Huangdan or more exactly near the dam below the town (that route we followed another time). This soon regains the ridge and follow this until you come to a T-junction. The approach is behind and on the right of Yuehong in the picture:

As it happens, directly above but invisible is the 'The Three Kings Shrine' described in Walk 2 above. (To get to the shrine, turn right, walk about 100 metres up the road and turn back left on the path. After the shrine continue down the path back to the truck road).

Turn left on the truck road and follow it past the abandoned house and bear left on to the path which descends straight back to Bagou which is also part of Walk 2. 

Alternatively carry on along the truck road which follows the ridge before descending to the crossroads behind the mobile phone towers above Bagou, turn left and follow the truck road back to Bagou.

4. The North West Passage

For our last day in Bagou, we had just one gap in our knowledge of the ridge paths around the Bagou valley and the weather was just right, cloudy but bright and there was no reason to expect any special operation on the railway. After a quiet morning we set out at noon along the railway track towards Huangcun, taking the steep path up just after the last valley towards the cluster of tombs on the hillside. The Fengshui must be propitious here and the path onwards followed a suspiciously flat route, it seems it may have been a mine tip and this may be a ventilation exit.

Climbing on up, the view back certainly tended to suggest it.

 We soon rejoined the truck road above Bagou, turning left where we were joined by a near tame Hoopoe bird, we also passed a delightful 'his and her' tomb:

At the next Y junction, we branched right and at the top of the village turned right on the path up the hill described in the North Side Walk below. Once we got to the truck road, this time we turned left as it roughly followed the contours near to the ridge. It was as well we were reasonably certain of our route as we didn't see a soul to ask. There were small paths left and right which we ignored and at the first main junction we chose to turn left - we suspect but will not know till our next visit that the road to the right will connect to one of the villages north of Huangdan which we have only seen from a distance. Similarly, at the next junction, we confidently chose to fork right - the left road would, we were sure, have finished shortly with a path on down for a premature return to Huangcun. On down we went on, what was for us a virgin trail, until looking back we knew that it was a view we had seen on the Huangcun Horseshoe Walk. No wonder Yuehong had a smirk on her face.

After which we simply had to retrace our earlier steps with a view west of the area to be explored on a future visit:

On this occasion, we eschewed the chance to continue round the ridge and at the first main crossroads - a key point in the Huangdan Hike - turned left and headed down for Huangcun, at this time of year, it's a delightful approach:

The main feature is the Monkey Shrine, a general picture appears in the report of the Huangdan Hike, here are some close ups, the portrait formats are Buddhas, the other is of 'Landlord and Landlady'.


Down below, I tried not very successfully to get some ducks to co-operate while Yuehong took a well earned rest:



Down at Huangcun, before the afternoon train arrived, it was necessary to shunt a couple of wagons which had delivered material for the stream beautification project:


The banner encourages parents to have equal regard for male and female offspring. Behind is Pop's grog shop - originally the 'Jiayang Coal Mine Workers Service' it once provided items which ordinary people were not allowed to buy. For all I know he used to serve behind the counter then and he still serves us a beer at just CNY 2.5:


We jumped on the train as we had done the journey on foot too many times in the last 3 weeks. I'm pleased to say that we are so much part of the scenery that we were charged the local fare...


5. The Huangcun - Bagou North Side

From Huangcun take the path which goes up the hill on the north side through the houses by the station (and before the small coal mine). Like us you may spot 'pig in a basket', not quite the 'chicken in a basket' which was fashionable when I was young:


There are good views of both mine and station as you climb.

Once the path becomes less steep, there are a number of old 'heritage houses' indicated by the fact that they have been numbered - few are still used, in fact one of them has been converted, in part, into a small temple, unfortunately, it was locked when we visited. The sign reads 'Nian Fo Tang' or 'Buddha Prayer Hall'  

Once into the main settlement, you will meet the end of the first truck road. If you want to see the settlements above Bagou, just follow this as it winds along and then drops down into the end of Bagou station by the tunnel. Alternatively, continue up through the houses.

Go across another truck road and look for the path which goes on up the hill slightly to the right. The views back are very nice:

Ignore the path coming in from the right and eventually you will reach the ridge and another truck road. To the left is (allegedly) Huangdan but for this walk turn right and go down gently until you get to the T-junction above Bagou. Ahead is a dead end and to the left a path goes down eventually reaching Jiaoba (see 2009 Jiaoba Jaunt). At this point turn right and go down the road and into Bagou.

Doing this walk from Bagou, the route is easily followed if you take the lower truck road, you just need to take the left branch as it reaches the settlement above Huangcun. Taking the upper road, it would be quite easy to miss the path back down to Huangcun. This grave (Li family, the old man died in 1985) is opposite it.

6. The Mamiao Meander

2011 footnote - the road up from Mamiao has now been concreted. Further, it extends beyond the end of the old truck road and joins the track between Bagou and Tong Qian Ao.

This extremely pleasant walk doesn't actually reach Mamiao, but it would be very easy to extend it to Mamiao and return using the valley route described in the 'Long March to Mamiao'. Instructions to join this walk from Mamiao are given at the end.

Take the truck road out of Bagou diagonally upwards towards the mobile phone masts. Go round the corner at the top and follow the road until you reach a major crossroads and turn left. What follows is a clockwise loop which will return you to this position in some two hours - of course it is possible to do it in either direction but the route is easier to find this way...

The truck road climbs slightly to pass one house on the right and then starts to descend. At the next group of houses the return path enters on the right but for now continue down the truck road for some way making sure to take the right fork at the only major junction (I'm not sure where the left turn takes you, it may lead down to the valley between Bagou and Mamiao). 

Eventually the road 'dies' and becomes a path. Continue along this for a short way until you can see a house in front of you - there is no way out ahead. Instead, take the zig zag path down into the small valley below, donít take the strong path left part way down. Keep going down to the bottom of the valley and cross the stream. and then leave through the trees keeping roughly to the contour until you come to a Y junction. Intuitively (like us) you would want to continue left but it leads only to a house with views of the lower valley path - accessible only to those with suitable wings.

Take the right fork which leads up to a ridge and you can see another valley below, turn left. After this point, you can descend the short distance to a truck road which comes up from Mamiao and turn left to reach Mamiao eventually (by 2011 this road had a concrete surface). For instructions to return directly to Bagou, see below after the Mamiao section.

There is a nice roadside shrine to the 'If you don't mind, could I have a boy baby, please, God, Guan Yin'

Entry into Mamiao is next to a small coal mine which has at least one small diesel locomotive and has recently changed from 300mm to 600mm :gauge

Mamiao must have an interesting history as there is a monument to the civil war, watching over the coal pickers:

.Down by the water, coal is loaded directly into boats.

There are more pictures of Mamiao on the 2009 Long March to Mamiao page.

However, to return to Bagou without visiting Mamiao turn right along the ridge back into the woods and when you exit drop down above a small house and bear left which brings you to a second house. The path passes immediately in front of the house and curves around above a deep canyon. Follow this trail as it climbs back up towards the houses below the main crossroads behind the mobile phone masts. (Note that by 2011, the existence of the concrete road mentioned above may have altered some of this as paths may have changed...)

If you have more time and want to include a visit to Mamiao then you can take the truck road as described above and then return to Bagou using the valley route. Alternatively, take the valley route to Mamiao. From there, instead of retracing your steps, turn left on the truck road west just before the first coal mine. Ignore the arch bridge on the left - the road is said to go to Huangdan. Go straight up the truck road which climbs steeply out of the valley into a more open area. Near the top turn left at the T-junction and follow it until it ends at a small house. Take the path above the house up into the woods and bear left. This joins the return ridge path described in the paragraph above. If in doubt ask for Bagou - although there are several paths everyone here is very friendly and eventually you will be able to see the mobile phone masts which will help you avoid making mistakes - given that you won't want to jump into a canyon you actually have precious little choice.

On our day out we left Bagou at 11.30, walked to Mamiao and back and still got back up the truck road in time for the afternoon passenger train, as you can see, the light was dire:

Whichever route you choose, you'll have earned your beer...

Rob Dickinson