Baoshang to Nu Jiang Valley

Monday 17 May – 16:46

A leisurely start, we gather around 9.15am and wander up the street in search of breakfast. The usual kiosk operations serving spicy noodles, fried rice or dumplings. Still feeling rather fragile, I opt for dumplings – wonderfully soft steamed dough filled with ground meat and mushrooms. And yoghurt. Klaus is now feeling unwell…

Spicy noodles for breakfast

Then it’s to the bank. In response to how I should pay for the trip, Jason quips “Cash! Non-consecutive fivers” which I take half seriously. We’ll be stopping at every ATM on the way if that’s the case.

Then we’re back to the hotel to pack our bags while the tour leaders and drivers hold a conference as the to the best route north.

Jason, Nombu, Ardong and Tzembho consult the map

We have been driving for over an hour along the side of the Sulveen river, where a massive road building project is underway, forging a highway up through the gorge. Taking the most direct route, this new construction of earth and aggregate cuts across the old tarmac at places, or joins with it, creating a confusion of dust, machinery, equipment and workers, all jostling for priority.

Slow progress

At this point, the new road is on a course some 100 ft above the old road, and diggers are cutting into the hillside and dropping the waste over the cliff where it tumbles like heavy brown smoke down into the river below.

The road ahead is blocked. It is closed because it has effectively been obliterated by this exercise. It is only open from 12-3 pm and from 7pm to 7am. We will be here for 3 ½ hours.

Falling debris completely blocking the old road

John has already had a swim in a protected bay, we have made real coffee, discussed how Jan and my new Lumix cameras work, and are now settling down for the long wait. It is about 90o F and Klaus is suffering, as I did, the other day. Thankfully John’s super antibiotics and a few doses of Lomotil seem to have dealt with my discomfort.

Later

The cicadas are singing and the upturned crescent moon slid over the mountain hours ago. We have eaten well. We turned off the main road just 20 minutes north of the unnatural landslide (efficiently cleared by two huge bulldozers coming at it from both directions within 40 minutes) and headed up into the mountains towards the Gaoligong Mountains Nature Reserve. Shy of the summit we turned off sharply at a sign saying simply “Farm Road Bends” down a rough track and into a small courtyard.

Farmstead accommodation in the hills

Three dusty 4-wheel drive vehicles were greeted with a modicum of surprise, and a great deal of accommodation. They hadn’t been expecting us, but Ardong had been here before and this was the first of a number of possible resting stops. We were lucky. They had six rooms and 12 beds – the boys doubled up.

There is a flurry of activity as chickens are dispatched and a typical Chinese feast is prepared within an amazingly short time.

Dinner being prepared

This farmstead is perched on the mountainside with views right across the river to the parallel range. Whenever we stopped the “experts” were out and about identifying plant material, with animated discussions over the exact species, and how this correlated with similar European ones.

These discussions never really abated, although they were sporadically replaced by more geeky ones over the optimum depth of field while using a macro facility on the digital camera or the correlation between reduced image size and increased digital zoom.

Nearly midnight and the “boys” are still drinking. We’re up and out at 9am to see what flora we can find along the trail that leads behind the farmhouse, towards the summit. I hear tonight that Emmenopterys henryi has been recorded on the other side of the ridge, and become very excited. It could well be in flower at this time. But alas there is no path over, and probably no other opportunity on this particular expedition to get so close. Perhaps it will remain an elusive dream. But I cannot regret that at least it brought me to this extraordinary country.

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