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Shibanxi Holiday 2011 - Day 17 - Jiaoba West Side Story

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We have piece by piece charted the paths around Bagou, this year's trip so far had seen no major new explorations but we now took a day off from entertaining our visitors to look at a walk which had suggested itself some time ago when we took the Jiaoba Jaunt. The plan was to research a route from Jiaoba to Huangcun, we had no information available, it was simply a case of relying on experience and what our eyes could see of possibilities as we went. We left our friends on the train and set off down the hill behind the square above the station, someone had part blocked it with bamboo. Harvesting it is a big business here, we understand it fetches CNY 0.40 a kilo, a lot of it ends up at the paper factory at Qianwei.

At the bottom, we came across a very much underused truck road and took it left up the hill opposite. We could see homesteads and fields of 'yellow flowers' above us and once we got up there we expected to play it by ear as usual. It seemed that motorcycles were the main motorised traffic but it was an easy way to gain height in an area where you can end up facing a cliff if you are not careful. To be honest, it was a 'bog standard' Shibanxi walk but nevertheless extremely pleasant as always, this was the view looking back towards Jiaoba:

This grave was unusual in that it had the inscription on a separate stone. Up and up we went and after a week of solid gluttony dining with her friends, Yuehong just kept telling herself that it was doing her a power of good. Despite the mediocre light, the views were never less than splendid:

Eventually we came to the upper inhabited area where the slope was less steep beneath the hill tops, the main climb was over and we followed the contours round the side of the hill. Guess who was smiling now?

This was not a walk for beginners, there were precious few landmarks but to us the path was obvious as the houses got fewer and fewer and eventually the small power lines stopped. When presented with a choice we declined to go either up or down. At first we were in bamboo groves, often the path was covered in their small leaflets and then there were signs that we were on a final climb, if the visibility had been better, the view would have been grand. Well, there was just one more down and up to come... 

And then the total satisfaction of finding ourselves on a truck road we recognised from the North West Passage walk. I asked Yuehong if we should turn left and go straight back to Bagou, I'm pleased to say she looked at her watch and chose right. Actually all the hard work had been done and after a couple of kilometres we turned left and came to a house which we recognised from our earlier visit. Then, we forked right, this time we took the left fork with the intention of dropping down directly to Huangcun. At the next junction we branched right - I guess left would have given us a similar end result. When we saw a house some way down on our right we went to check directions which were given in the usual voluble Sichuan manner. Basically we had to continue the way we were going on the main track... When we came to the next house, it was understood we should 'turn left', what was actually intended was that we should 'keep left', my suggestions that we should get a second opinion were brushed aside and we spent an interesting 20 minutes negotiating a bamboo infested valley before we re-emerged on the original track but rather lower down, fortunately no damage was done to our increasingly frail bodies. Eventually we were on very familiar territory above Huangcun although to one local inhabitant it was a very unfamiliar experience.

With an eye on the watch, we had hoped to catch the afternoon train from Huangcun to Bagou but at the terminus, one track had empties and the other had fulls, the latter with a very somnolent #10. We chose to amble down the railway track and it was soon clear from two toned whistling that something interesting was happening. It was 'grab shot' time, all I can say in our defence is that we had been hiking for over four hours at the time. #9 and #8 arrived together, #9 took the passenger train back followed by #8 and a near dead #10. The shunting at the top must have been interesting. 

Dinner afterwards was a rather more modest and sober affair than the previous several. Very much needed I would say if I had a vote in such matters.

Rob and Yuehong Dickinson