19 November 2010

Matthias took us on one of his hikes. “No longer than three hours up” was my stipulation. It’s taken me a long time to admit that my spirit is much more willing…

We met at 8am, bought a few provisions and caught a local taxi to save a half-hour walk down the main road to the start of the trek.

High Mountain Path

Maping Guan was a strategic customs post on the Tea and Horse Caravan Trail – the nearby salt mines were an important currency along the route, and being a customs post provided a vital income for the area. The trade has long-since passed by, but this small hill-town is still only reachable by foot.

Local traffic

The trail was pretty clear to start with – up a deep-cut, thickly wooded gully, and into sparse pines. We were following horse-hooves: all goods are transported still by horse of mule. But they split off of along a ridge, and we could have followed any number of paths.

I guess we did.

Cyananthus sp

We arrived at the hill-town at about 3:30, with barely half an hour to take it in, before having to make a decision on whether to stay the night, or head back.

The mountain village

If we stayed, we would be asking someone to give up their bed for us – there are no guest-houses here: like most places in the mountains, people will provide hospitality to travellers. It would probably also mean an extremely cold night and little sleep. There are times that I would like to feel more adventurous than I actually do – I read about other’s adventures and think that if I was as outgoing as them, as prepared to take risks – or perhaps it is just trusting that things will work out – I might have similar experiences.

We never do, of course, but there is something about the trusting.

Poplars in pines

In Germany, they still have the tradition of the journeyman years, or brotherhood – Waltzing, or the “auf der Walz sein” – where a carpenter travels, indeed must travel after completing an apprenticeship, before he can become accepted as a craftsman and enter a guild, or become a master of the trade. He can accept no money for his work, and relies on the generosity of

people for transport, food and lodging.

The tradition declined under the Naxi regime. When Germany started to find it’s feet again, reviving such traditions was not one of the areas it considered a priority in terms of economic development.


But these traditions, thanks to Spirit-of-Life, are here within us, still.

So we didn’t stay overnight in the village, but hare-footed it back.

It was moonlight over Shaxi. As the

Quercus sp

sun bleached behind us darkness cast vast chasms.

Shadows have their own stories to tell. And it was hard to determine mere darkness from ditch. Having little choice but to head straight down the hill, we navigated field edges and sodden paths towards the valley floor.

We limped into town and headed straight for hot-pot, muddy boots and all. And boy, was I thankful for my own bed!