Off-roading in the Bamboo Sea

DSC_0092The name ‘Bamboo sea’ may call up images of endless greenery, serene quiet, and tranquillity. Perhaps your mind sees a forest that is somewhat wild and a panda feasting with all the time in the world. We didn’t find the panda and the forest was clearly maintained through regular logging, but this is what we, for a little while, found in a hidden corner of the Sichuan province in China.

It had started badly. Upon our arrival we had a breakdown of communications with the locals and ended up spending 5 pounds on a cable car simply to escape some pushy individuals who had resorted to shouting ‘Money, Money!’ at us as.The problem we faced was one we should have been used to at that point (but would annoy us several more times in China). The maps were insufficient, and there were virtually no walking or hiking trails available. This was particularly frustrating because the guidebook had lured us out on our daytrip through the use of the phrase ‘well-marked walking trails”. When we finally decided to simply give in and escape the situation via cable- car, we found ourselves at another virtual dead end.

DSC_0058After marching both directions on the main road for a while, trying to decide where we wanted to go, a third option opened up in front of us. A muddy path led into the forest, clearly usually not used, but the kind of path that would have constituted a well-worn footpath in the UK. The kind of path that here, in the land of concrete and boardwalks, signified an actual “adventure”.

Our off-road experiment took us through the heart of the forest, past several spots where the forest was being thinned out, piles of bamboo poles stacked neatly on one side. We forded streams and waterfalls, hopped over rocks, and scrambled up small hillsides. It was a minuscule adventure, and yet it felt exhilarating not following the crowd.

DSC_0105We did (eventually) find the designated (concrete) footpath, and appreciated the views that this gave us as well. Hammered into the cliff side the path let us stare out into the valley where fields and hills alternated and houses stood half hidden in the greenery. Waterfalls tumbling down the wall made the scene even more magical, even as we began to speed up, stressing about missing the last cable car down the other side of the mountain.

In hindsight we should have probably arranged to stay overnight in the park, rather than try and run it as a day trip from Yibin. But Yibin was such a gorgeous small city, with such a vibrant community, that I am very happy we stopped there as well. It simply made the ‘bamboo day’ more of a challenge and less serene. Nonetheless, we finished our day eating fresh clementines from a vendor at the bus stop, deeply satisfied with the juicy product and a quick day out into the countryside before we returned to big cities.

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