Currently we are living in China, Guangdong province, the northern part…
When I settled in China for longer time, I wanted to make some more serious trekking in some Chinese mountain. But my Chinese friends always guided me to some “mountain parks”, with entrance fee, park alleys, benches, trash bins, “ancient” pagodas (built few years ago), small shops with souvenirs, and in some higher mountains- with lifts, horse or camel riding, and many other tourist attractions. And of course, especially during the holiday, it is always crowded with people.
But I wanted a true, wild mountain.
Better in the western part of China, where the highest mountains on the Earth are situated, anyway, the lower East China mountains are interesting too. However, it was difficult to find local mountain lovers- most of the Chinese that I knew were afraid of wild mountains- they were afraid of being too tired, of falling and injuring, and many other things. Some of them were afraid of graves- the local people of the villages have such a tradition- to bury their dead relatives somewhere in a nearby forest, hill or mountain slope. As for me- to go alone was a little bit dangerous (or at least I thought like this)- I am a foreigner, and some of the village people think that foreigners are “rich, full of money, and stupid”…
Then I met a Chinese friend, who was a professional mountaineer and traveler, his name was Shen Li. He has been traveled to many mountains in China, he knew how to arrange and guide groups, he was perfectly equipped, with a long experience as a mountain guide. He was traveled by bicycle from Lhasa to Kunming for a month, as well as many other shorter trips.
He warned me, if I want to join his group, I have to be seriously in form, because I may not endure the trekking. Well, later I saw that actually it was not “so difficult”, but exactly “in my style”. Anyway, some training was not useless.
Soon the Chinese National holiday came- October 1st, one of the biggest holidays in China. On this holiday the Chinese have 1 week vacation, and many of them go to travel. So at least two weeks before the holiday you can’t find any tickets, nor train tickets, neither air tickets.
Few days before the holiday Shen Le called me, and asked me to confirm, shall I go with him and the group to Chuandiding mountain. He has told me before about this mountain, and I liked what I have heard. Chuandiding (船底顶) is the highest peak there (1586 m)- yes, much lower than the high mountains on the west, but seems it still has much to offer. Its name means “ship’s bottom” or “turned upside-down ship”, due to the peak’s image, seen from aside.
I immediately accepted the invitation and with my wife started preparing- we bought the all necessary gear that I didn’t have, from the Chinese popular trade site Taobao. I met our trekking group too- in the Chinese chat platform QQ, where everybody presented himself (some of the people knew each other from before, but others like me, were new). We discussed what things have to bring, who will bring, etc. Shen Li sent a detailed file with the route description, as well as all requirements about the trekking, including the requirement everybody to makes his own insurance.
Finally the day of the trekking start came.
For this purpose I had to go to our starting point town- Yingde(英德), from where the all other people of the groups are, as well as my wife’s relatives. We had an appointment for 20:00pm. I came to the place of the meeting with my wife, but there was still nobody there. Only one girl came with a small rucksack, her English name was Marissa. We asked her is she from the group for Chuandiding, she confirmed, and I, looking to her and her small rucksack, thought that seems the trekking will be not so difficult and heave, as Shen Li warned me. Soon the others came too, together with a small spaniel dog, called Popo (which finally appeared to be the strongest of everybody). The van came, we loaded our rucksacks inside and all squeezed inside- 11 people plus the driver- 5 boys and 6 girls.
We departed from Yingde to the starting point of the trekking- Xindong (新洞) village. After 2 hours traveling, first on a wide new road, then on narrow cemented village roads, where we passed extremely difficult with the coming cars, finally arrived to Xindong.
The village is situated at about 360 m altitude, in a small plain valley. It consisted of few two-storied houses and something like a half-school, half-municipality, in the middle. We arrived there about 22:00pm and installed our tents on the cemented village plaza in front of the “school-municipality”.
The girls immediatelly took out three small gas bottles “Made in Israel” and started cooking soups and bouillons with Chinese cabbage, bamboos and other small things, took our small fish and the favorite for the Chinese chicken feet. We ate, talked for a while and about 23:30 went to sleep, as I was in the same tent with Shen Li.
In the next morning we woke up at 6:00am. After the morning toilet in queue to a tapped fountain and a broken village lavatory, we quickly ate Chinese noodles with spices. Then folded up our tents and luggage, made a group photo in front of the “school-municipality” and started the trekking.
It has to be a serious trekking, with more than 1200 m displacement, not by a constant ascending, but multiple ascents and descents, so, for every case, I went to walk with those who were more ahead.
We departed at 7:00am. In the beginning we walked about 30 mins on a cemented road upward, then (at about 450 m) we got on a dirt road, which first slightly descent, passed by a waterfall, then began more steep upward. About 8:00am we ascent to about 550 m, then temporary stopped ascending.
We passed a small village, called Shangxie (上斜) , where the dirt road scattered into many small paths to various directions. We found the right path and descent down to a mountain river.
We arrived to the river around 9:00am, at about 430 m altitude. We stopped there for 15 mins relax, and one of the girls- Yang Guo, was stung by a bee. Anyway, it was not a problem, so after we ate some snacks, we started walking on the river. It was almost waterless, only with stones, because its water was caught. About 200 meters later we reached the place of the catchment, where there was a water power station and we had to cross a deep stream.
Little by little we all crossed it successfully, jumping on the river stone, almost without wetting. Shen Li took the dog Popo in his hands, which didn’t dare to swim in the river. 500 m later the path became clearer and began very sheer upward. We ascent with many serpentines, sometimes on a very difficult slope, so everybody got sweat (it was almost 10:00am, and the sun was shining stronger and stronger).
We stopped again for a short rest- at about 650 m altitude, then proceeded further, higher and higher over the river. The slopes were as always covered by deciduous forest, mixed with a lot of tropical plants, sometimes bamboos, banana trees and rubber plants. The valley itself was a canyon, whose slopes were steep until the summits, which were also very sharped.
However we soon reached a very different landscape. After we crossed a small summit at about 740 m, we arrived to plain meadows with high grass and in the middle- a small dam. It was Xiadong (下洞) meadows.
There was the first of the peaks order of the mountain- Gaozhang (高嶂), bulging over the meadows, which we had to climb. Here the path separated into few small paths, which often disappeared in the high grass. And because our group scattered too much, me, Shen Li and three of the girls- Marissa, Cha Nong and A Vi who were most ahead got one of the paths, and the rest got another path. Around 11:30am we stopped for a rest beside a stream, then proceeded about 30 mins more. Soon we entered a bamboo forest and began ascending slowly. Here we met another group, who were descending on their wey back and were stopped for lunch. A little later we stopped too and began eating some snacks- I had some cookies, packed black eggs in soy sausage, something like weenies and some other little things. There were some fruits like plums, but in taste like something between pear and apple. We were at about 780 m and the big ascending was ahead of us. We met some other trekkers, some of them quite tired, with softened knees due to their steep descending.
Around 13:00pm we left again, and the slope began getting steeper and steeper. Soon we gathered again with the rest of our group. I was most ahead again, together with Shen Li and A Vi, and behind us were Marissa and Cha Nong, and the oldest trekker (around 45 years old) Qingfeng Lengyue (I don’t know his real name, it was his nickname, meaning “fresh wind, cold moon”).
The path was wounding up on the grass slope, and the panorama around us was getting wider and wider. Finally, around 14:30pm we reached Gaozhang peak- about 1280 m altitude. A new panorama revealed in front of us- to Luori (落日) peak, and the main peak Chuandiding, as well as the other peaks around. However the view wasn’t looking easy- we had to walk on a summit, which sometimes descent quite low, then again raised upward, and Chuandiding was too far from here. We proceeded further- only me, Shen Li and A Vi. But soon I was alone on the path, and the others remained quite behind me. The summit was covered with grass and it was too bumpy, with a lot of small hills and paddles, and its both sides disappeared deep down below.
Thus I walked alone gradually descending to about 1150 m. Soon I was again together with A Vi, and Shen Li remained there waiting the others. We arrived to a mountain pass and behind it the steep slope of Luori peak began. Me and A Vi climbed Luori around 15:45pm- it was 1480 m high. We could see the others coming deep below us. From Luori a new panorama revealed- this time directly to Chuandiding peak. We had to descend again, then again ascend to the final peak. We were quite tired already, besides, our water finished.
After a short rest we gradually descent on the path, entering a low and thick forest, mixed with a kind of bamboo trees. We arrived to a small paddle where we found a stream. We filled our bottles with water from the stream- it was not so good, slightly yellowish, but we were too thirsty and, as we heard, there will be no other water until the peak. Then we met a group, who already stopped for camping overnight. It was 17:45pm already and we were in a hurry to reach the main peak, if possible before the sunset, because A Vi, who has been there before, said that the sunset was very beautiful. We were quite tired already and with much effort passed the last ascending, from around 1300 to 1586 m
Soon the path came out of the low forest, the slope began getting smaller, and
we arrived to the “bottom of the ship”–
a wide (around 200x200m) area, covered with grass and low bamboos, with small bumps and paddles. The highest bump was covered by stones, marking the highest point of the mountain. It was 18:30pm and we saw the sunset successful- only me and A Vi. There were a lot of tents and other groups of trekkers, preparing for an “evening party”.
It became dark quickly, but there was no sign from the rest of our group. Anyway, here the groups were well organized, including our group- with wireless radio. So later we connected with them, and we were informed that they will arrive to the peak in the dark. However first me and A Vi installed the tent that I was bringing, to be ready earlier. It was windy, and after the sunset became cold, so we had to wear our jackets. Then we left our rucksacks in the tent and went slightly down to wait the others. They appeared in the dark, around 19:15pm. Soon we all gathered together, then found some other proper places for the other tents, and it was our first job to do. Then the cooking procedure began- we took out the three gas bottles and the girls started preparing the dinner.
First- hot sweet soup (with a slightly spicy taste), which was very warming. Then another soup, again small fish, chicken in soy sausage, Chinese cabbage, pig’s foot in soy sausage and spices, normal pork and other things. There was also some sweet wine and sweet Chinese brandy. The cooking and the eating were very long.
The girls tried to cook the rice, but it was unsuccessful, so we left it for the next day. We didn’t make a bonfire, but actually there was no need of it- the gas bottles and the head torches were enough for eating and for light. The dog Popo didn’t look tired at all, anyway she was quiet and didn’t walk on the food. After the dinner, the “cheers” and the funny conversations we little by little began entering our tents, until 23:00pm everything gradually became quiet and we went to sleep.
On the next day we again woke up at 6:00am. We quickly put on our clothes and went out to see the sunrise, together with the other groups, on one of the east bumps of the peak. There we made photos and refreshed ourselves. Then only I walked around, watching the panoramas to the various directions. Around 7:00am we had some breakfast- again hot soup and porridge, then we folded our tents and luggage. At 8:00am we all made a final photo on the highest point, and after that left downward.
The path descent on a steep slope to a small pass, and the summit became very narrow, with two precipices on its both sides, almost a kilometer deep. We climbed a rock to a small peak, with a rope for help, then started constantly descent downward. Soon, around 8:30am, we reached a steep stone chute and got onto it. The descent was difficult and we had to be very careful.
We descent to abour 1400 m. The path left the stone chute, crossed the side slope and appeared on another stone chute. This time we walked down on it longer time. We met other groups too. Around 10:00am finally we arrived to a place at about 1120 m, where we found a source- it was Luokeng (罗坑) river’s source. The water was excellent and very clean, so we all filled our bottles. It was getting hotter and hotter.
The stones became bigger, more trees appeared, and the stone chute gradually turned into a steep canyon. The stream flew among the stones and rocks, there were many small waterfalls, and some difficult to pass path sections, sometimes needing a rope. Thus around 12:00am finally we descent to 810 m altitude. There we stopped for a rest and improvised lunch. Some of the people slept for a while, others made some tea, using the gas bottles. There was a nice water pool, however the water was quite cold.
About 13:00pm we proceeded downward. We walked in a steep mountain valley. At about 750 m altitude we reached a water catchment. From here an artificial channel started, following the valley’s left slope. It was algal, following the curves of the slope. We walked on it until around 14:30pm, while the Luokeng stream was descending deeper and deeper down. The path crossed one of the steep chutes on a wooden bridge.
Finally we arrived to a mountain hut, where the locals seems to come sometimes. From this point a dirt road began, descending with many curves down to Luokeng stream, which was now a mountain river- to about 450 m altitude. We reached the river around 15:30pm. We made a short rest and refreshed ourselves in the river. There was again a deciduous jungle around us.
Around 15:45 we left again. Our dirt road crossed to the right slope of the valley and gradually ascent to 550 m altitude. There was another water catchment there, and we found another road, which lead us to Pingkeng (平坑)- a small mountain village, at 16:45pm. We stopped there for a rest, bought a warm pepsi, and one of the girls- a bottle of warm beer (there just wasn’t anything else, there was not a fridge too).
Then we proceeded on a bigger dirt road, which was almost plain. Again me, Shen Li and A Vi were most ahead. The road was following the valley, then later crossed a small summit and began descending on its other side. It began getting darker. Soon down below we saw the Luokeng hollow and our final destination- Luokeng village. Around 18:45pm we reached the plain fields at 280 m altitude. Very tired, we walked a little more in the darkness, and at 19:15pm arrived to the Luokeng village’s first house, where our van was waiting for us. Soon the others came too and we gathered together.
The driver took us to the village center. Actually it was quite larger than Xindong (it was a zhen- 镇)- something like a small town, having a center with shops, and a nice restaurant, where we had dinner together. After the delicious food (rice, bamboos, something like a pumpkin, but not exactly, called “donggua”, chilli with pork, fish in soy sausage and cold beer), finally we made a last photo all together. Then around 20:00pm we left back to Yingde.
We arrived to Yingde at 22:00pm, quite tired but satisfied. Then we separated with wishes to meet and go to trekkings again. Thus everybody back home. What was following, was a bath, sleeping, and next few days photos and memories sharing.
Thus Chuandiding trekking finished.
Although it was not a high peak, but for me it was a good beginning of exploring the mountains of China, including the highest mountain lands of the Earth.