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Shibanxi Holiday 2011 - Day 11 - Caiziba to Bagou - the very long way around

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The weather showed no sign of relenting, there was no point in gricing but at least it was dry. We wanted to show our visitors rural Sichuan in the proverbial nutshell and it was a good opportunity to try to sort out the 'proper route' from Caiziba to the Mamiao valley road. The plan was to have a relaxed late breakfast and take the second train down. As it left Bagou for Huangcun it was obvious there was an extra passenger on the loco. Historically the railway has been very tight on cab rides (I have only ever had just one which had to be authorised at a very high level) but I guess now it is seen as an extra source of revenue just like the shed visits at Shixi which for a time were also hard to come by.

The train was comfortably full, so much so that we were asked to travel in the tourist coach to make space for the locals in the regular coaches. We passed a train of coal empties at Jiaoba which had some coal for the Bagou bath house and had just enough time at Caiziba to get in position to watch the train run past the new viewing platform:

Yuehong got down to business and enquired about a path towards Mamiao. "You'll have to go from Xianrenjiao" said each of the first three people we asked. In the end we took the truck road across the second level crossing above Caiziba and when it shortly came to a junction we followed the major left fork. However, when Yuehong asked where it led to, the answer was "Sanjing" which was not what we wanted to hear. So back to the junction we went and took the other fork round the side of the hill until we could see the Xianrenjiao mobile phone mast. This immediately placed where we were and I was pretty confident I could see the top of the valley we had used the previous day in the distance. The local farmer wasn't quite sure of our sanity and again suggested we went to Xianrenjiao, but eventually grudgingly admitted there was a small path we could use and said we would have to cross a dam. We were very glad we had come this way as if we had taken a lower path nearer Caiziba we would have had to descend into the valley below the dam and climb up the other side.

It wouldn't have been too much of a problem for Yuehong and me, but we weren't 100% sure of the hiking capabilities of our visitors. In the event, nothing seemed to bother them. There are so many paths round here that I would hesitate to suggest that inexperienced walkers without a Chinese speaker attempt to retrace our steps. At the quite distinctive house nearby, an old lady was happy to confirm we were heading in the right direction.

Indeed, a few wiggles and dips later we found ourselves back on the truck road leading to the previous day's coal mine and in almost no time we were back down on the new Mamiao to Bagou road. We turned right but as it was only 13.45 instead of going straight back we took the steep truck road up to the left - the first picture does not do justice to the gradient:

In other words, we were into the area between the 'Long March to Mamiao' and the 'Mamiao Meander' described on my Bagou walks summary page. However, it was worth the effort as from the top there was a well graded truck road all the way back to the four way junction below the Bagou mobile phone masts. The views were splendid but it was a little muddy at times. One of the homesteads had its own Guan Yin (Goddess of Mercy) shrine, with offerings from her birthday the day before - packets of biscuits.

After which we enjoyed the scenery and made our way back to Bagou watching a coal train and then the third passenger train across the deep gorge. Photographing them would have been a joke, we just enjoyed the distant sights and sounds.

 Once again, the walk had not gone exactly to plan, but what we had done was exactly what was needed. Judging from the medium term forecast, we aren't going to get much gricing done for the rest of the trip.


Rob and Yuehong Dickinson

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