The International Steam Pages

Shibanxi Holiday 2011 - Day 6 - Hiking in the Hills to Dodge the Tourists

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The weather was dire, the tourists were due, it was time to get out of town for the day. We enjoyed a very late breakfast, the steam buns were long gone and we set out on the diagonal climb in the direction of the mobile phone masts. Both of us were suffering from creaking knees and we had chosen the track to Tong Qian Ao to avoid using any steps.

The small shrine on the way up has been given a makeover.

Once over the ridge we passed an old lady coming up with an overloaded basket. What was it? Apparently a day's supply of fuel for cooking...

A common sight today was banana plants which appeared to have died back in an extended cold spell. Unlike those near Bagou station, up in the hills they had not been cut back.

As we came round a bend we found a section of new concrete road. Shortly after there was a T junction and we immediately changed our plan to see whether it had come up from Mamiao (as indeed it had). We turned left and followed it as it wound through the hills. Unlike the new road between Xianrenjiao and Jiaoba this one had minimal environmental impact and must have been very welcome to the various farmers, most of whom have motorbikes and will now have much easier access to the outside world.

Eventually I recognised where we had joined what was then a dirt track on our Mamiao Miander and we headed up to the ridge and did the first part of that walk again, this time in the anti-clockwise direction. It had hardly changed, we must have been a little later in the season than before as the peach blossoms had started:

This is glorious unchanged rural China, in many ways the families who live here have a richer life than those who have fled to the concrete jungles to seek their fortunes. These days they have fair sized houses, electricity, TV, mobile phones, a motor bike and a fair income from the fruit and vegetables they can readily ship out. 

The bad luck story concerns the old people who have been left behind by their children and thus have to do the hard physical work themselves.

If you live here, you can have your own burial plot; in this case, old lady Liao has prepared her last resting place and inscribed it in advance. All her relatives will have to do is bury her and add the date!

We were back in Bagou by 14.30, just in time for the third tourist train of the day. In fact in the dismal weather most of the visitors stayed on the trains for the return trip and they were outnumbered by the children back in town for the weekend at home. Croquet was taking place in the main square and the open air stage was being spruced up. The slogan being applied appropriately reads "The Stage for Mao Ze Dong's Thoughts".

Nevertheless the guest house is booked out, a mixture of families and camera bedecked rich youngsters who will be sleeping three to a bed (no not like that!) and who will talk loudly all night. It's a small price for us to pay for the pleasure of staying up here for several weeks. 

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson