The International Steam Pages
Shibanxi Holiday 2010 - Bagou Follies
Click here for the Shibanxi Holiday 2010 report.
Click here for the extended Shibanxi Holiday 2009 reports.
This is, in many ways the most breathtaking walk described and well worth the effort involved. The ascent described below is the reverse of the descent from the Three Kings Shrine walk described in Bagou Short Circuits.
You can use either route to Tong Qian Ao and it's an easy walk from to Huangdan which has an interesting roadside small scale coal mine operation. After about 1km the path reaches a medium sized coal mine (which uses diesels), thereafter the road has been concreted to the dam below Huangdan with access to the waterside collieries. The views are pretty but it's hard on the knees - it's easy to charter a motor bike to speed up the journey. The locals will whistle one up on their mobile phone...
The start needs some care to make sure you get on the right trail. Just after and below the hospital on the west side of Bagou town, a small path goes up the large side valley and as it starts to climb you will go straight across the truck road which starts at the bottom of Bagou when it is at its most southerly point in the first valley. Carry on along the path and 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 on the ridge at the top. Turn right when you meet it (left leads back to Bagou as described in the other walk), and follow the road along the ridge as it goes past an abandoned house. When you see a small path on the left which climbs slightly you can take it and go past the shrine - it's just a boulder with a figure carved in it.
If you stay on the truck road, it shortly curves left - the minor branch on the right follows the ridge and is part of another Bagou Short Circuit. The path from the shrine rejoins the track and you continue south, the truck road is still 'under construction' and as the pictures show, you're never too old to build a road in China:
At a point where the road bears right take the path bearing left up the hill - be sure not to miss it as we think the truck road does not go much further and will not offer a continuing path with an easy descent. As you go through the woods, you will see the remains of a tea estate on a more open area to the left, in fact there are odd tea plants dotted all over the hill but there is little to distinguish them from the other bushes and shrubs. The first image shows the junction mentioned above, the second the 'lunch break' in the tea estate.
The path continues on and drops slightly before turning sharply right to what were once the buildings used by people collecting the tea. The turn is just below the trees on the right in the first picture taken from the tea estate and the second shows the turn:
Turn left past the front of the first building - seen below from the second building with the approach path behind.
Take the path along the ridge - it's quite safe but there are steep drops on both sides.
The ever improving views culminate at a couple of large rocks with an almost complete panorama. It must be fantastic on a clear day, but necessarily there aren't many in this part of the world and they are best used for photographing the trains.
From here the path drops quite steeply downwards, this house must have a splendid view too:
At the bottom, it joins the main Bagou - Huangdan trail at the village of Tong Qian Ao - there is a small shop (the white house in the middle of the second panormaric picture above) opposite where the path comes out which sells much needed beer!
Take a break here, turn around and look across the pond to the amazing 'Folly' opposite.
It was built by a Mr. Pan some 80 years ago and his (only) son still lives in the village - he is a sprightly 68 year old. He kindly gave us an escorted tour of the 'house' which comprises a ground floor and four upper storeys - the interior is basically wooden. Not surprisingly the inscriptions around the door were covered up during the Cultural Revolution and are only now being revealed. The stone high up on the building, unfortunately is no more than a series of benedictions.
The road down (south-west) leads eventually to Huangdan, but instead head north-east past where Mr. Pan (senior) is buried in an elaborate grave.
Soon you get to a Y-junction, the main track (right) leads uphill and eventually to Mamiao. Turn left and descend to the interesting curved stone dam - it seems to have no purpose other than to regulate the water which flows down to Mamiao some way below.
Trucks cannot pass across the dam, but there is another truck road on the other side which climbs attractively through the village of Lian Hua:
At the top is the cross roads behind the mobile phone towers above Bagou. If you want to the walk in the opposite direction it should be easy to spot the 'Folly' coming over from Bagou and you need the path which climbs steeply beside the two new white houses to the right of the 'Folly' - there are a number of paths on the hillside, you just have to make sure you always choose the steepest option to get to the viewpoint and after that it's a question of following the paths in reverse which should be very straightforward.
We have not done this walk in one session exactly as described here so the time needed is difficult to estimate but I would judge between 3 and 4 hours.
Together with the ridge route south of Bagou it's just about our favourite walk in the area and one we would happily repeat...