20 May – Thursday

The road at Pianma was lined with massive trunks of trees which presumably were teak from Burma. But the transport over the Burmese border seemed to have stopped – or paused, perhaps, as the constant flow of great trucks were transporting ore of some sort. They just called it “metal” but we’re trying to find out exactly what it might be. There’s certainly a lot of it!

Massive tree trunks from Burma

1.30pm – sitting in Ardong’s vehicle sheltering from wind and rain. We’ve stopped at the peak, 3,600m, the pass over the mountain range in thick cloud. It’s very cold.

We left Pianma around 9.15am and have had various botanical florays from the side of the road – noticeably the big leaved Rhododendron sino grande which caused some excitement, growing just a few metres from Magnolia rostrata one of the largest magnolias.

Caught up again in a jam of lorries on this narrow, torn road, we wait for them to ease past each other, with just inches to spare between the gulley cliff-side which channels the rainwater down, and an almost sheer drop on the other. Suddenly there is great excitement as the botanists discover Schizandra,


of which only 5 or 6 species are known, and this one is not in cultivation.

We tumble back into the vehicles as the trucks start moving again, but hald again sandwiched between the massive trucks and a precipitous drop. John quips that this is a good speed to travel at for plant spotting! Klaus gets out and starts photographing the traffic jam…

We wind down towards Liuku again, but have been told to look out for some dilapidated buildings reminiscent of the film Deliverance, with a forest trail leading off and potentially interesting plants. Again people wander off in various directions, but there is great excitement at the discovery of Araesema elephas with its huge spreading leaves sheltering their bulbous spikes of dark purple flowers still only partially unfurled. We’re all juggling our cameras under umbrellas at this point as the rain continues to fall, and the light under these huge leaves is dismal. We try all sorts of techniques, even using flash, to try to capture these magnificent plants. I make a bad mistake with my new Lumix by choosing “flash burst” which I think might give me some fill-in flash, but without consulting my manual – and find that I’ve taken precious photos at only 400k instead of 2mg. Won’t try that again…

We eventually find our hotel in Liuku – which although built virtually underneath the footbridge and above a fish market, is remarkably good! At 138RMB a night, it ‘s certainly the best hotel I’ve stayed in in China – and it has internet connection with an Ethernet cable. I can finally send e-mails and let people know where I am and what I’m up to. And the carpet pile is so springy and the towels and thick and white and the shower is one of those fabulous overhead ones which just drenches you. Bliss!