Nu Jiang Valley and Beihualing

Wed 19 May

We have a leisurely start, with a walk up the hill to explore again some of the interesting flora, followed by a rather large breakfast.

Farmstead breakfast

Ah! the toilet...

Road to farmstead

Then we head away from the homestead, its enormous spiders and dubious “facilities” and back down the winding road to the main route along the Nu Jiang valley, only to be stuck at 11.15am at a road block for around half an hour.

The large dumper struck sped through a while ago, presumably having cleared the fallen rock from the road construction above.

Passing the time at the roadblock

The queue of traffic includes local buses and numerous motorbikes – our small convoy attracts considerable attention. I’m travelling in the same Cherokee vehicle as before with Tsabho our driver; Ardong and the Botanists are in front, with Nombu bringing up the rear.

The construction road

1pm, and it’s a dusty, dirty, violent construction of this seemingly endless road – very hard driving on earth, aggregate chippings, mud, then the old road of tarmac, through villages torn apart – half demolished buildings gaping.  Paddy fields are being prepared, flooded with water and worked by water buffalo with the farmer straddling a sled with rakes which ploughs the earth. It looks at first glance as though they’re water-skiing!

These rice paddies are tiny curved strips, with new mud dams. Stones have been removed and piled up along the bunds – a woman is tossing bunches of rice plants into the water to be planted carefully in neat rows. On lower ground, architectural stands of bamboo towering over the terraces.

Towering bamboo amongst the paddy fields

We speed past fields of coffee; trees of walnut, and the “butterfly tree family” which includes broom and Robinia, with yellow flowers and pinnate leaves, with swallows weaving across the street in front of our vehicles catching insects above warm road, past mud brick houses, with tiled roofs. Maize is also being planted and it seems like it’s a secondary crop – then are caught again behind massive lorries moving aggregate; the foundations for this new road forging its way up the valley with its ultimate destination – Tibet no doubt.

Some rather big equipment...

1.36 market day in a little slip of a village – everyone from miles around, red covered stalls virtually across the street, completely oblivious to vehicles and horns. Overtaken by motorbikes skittering on the gravel, T-shirts, flip flops – no helmets, sometimes three on the bike, a baby strapped on the back, market produce bulging, a chicken dangling head down grasped by the feet, feathers fluttering, started eyes blinking, gasping at dust.

Stop around 2 at Liuku to buy a few provisions for a picnic, then head left up the twisting road into the mountains, away form the thrum. The road is good new tarmac and the views spectacular as we climb away from the Nu Jiang river.

We’ve risen to about 2,000m and stop for lunch roadside, chewing processed chicken legs and crisps washed down with coconut juice. People scurry in all directions plant-seeking and discover wild raspberry, a little blue flower which has been identified, but I failed to make notes… a member of the bistort family (similarly awaiting ID) and a few  others.

Pterocarya - wingnut

Then just 10 mins later the convoy suddenly stops and the botanists tumble out excitedly, fairly sprinting back to the tree they’d seen in the distance from the hostelry this morning, but hadn’t been able to get close enough to identify: Pterocarya or wingnut. Then, right by the vehicle as we piled back in, Klaas spots Ericaceous lionia (?).

6.10 another roadside foray up a steep gully where the first Acer is spotted, pleasing Mike from the Acer Society. We also spot Acer davidii subsp. grosseri with entire leaves, serrated, but the distinctive winged seeds quite young and unformed.

Acer davidii subsp grosseri

Also right there, Rhododendron decorum, scented with fused petals and a fine small tree it is, standing right on its own.

Rhododendron decorum

Later – massive trucks coming over the pass from the Burmese annexed land with minerals, road decays to a slithering muddy mess, exacerbated by the practice of spraying the brakes with a fine mist of water to keep them cool on the long winding and steep declines. Cloud descends, visibility very poor, but stops for R. Grandiflorum and various other R. species.

Rhododendron grandiflorum

We drive down out of the cloud into the town of Pianma. No hotel booking has been made, but there is an assumption that we will find somewhere half-decent – we pull over at the

Our hotel - the first building in town

first group of buildings and check into a fine hotel, quite new and almost empty. It’s now 8pm and we are all very tired.

Half an hour later – a very quick shower and change into clean clothes – and it is already dark outside. We head up the road two buildings and find a large restaurant with excellent food, where people compare notes on what’s been seen and clarify IDs.

We leave Jason, John and our intrepid drivers with their beers and head back to the hotel, exhausted from all the travelling. More tomorrow…