Hiking Shaxi Yunnan
The valley floor of Shaxi is surrounded by the remnants of fruit and nut orchards that are great for exploring on short day hikes. Some of the most rewarding are on the lower slopes of Huacongshan at the rear of Duan Village. Just north of the community is the Donghuang Temple, restored in 2004 by a Taiwanese benefactor, with glorious views across the valley to Diantou and beyond. Just above this, an enormous pair of Acacias are the largest landmark around, and a food starting point for relatively easy strolls up into the pear orchards and long avenues of chestnut trees. Sheltered groves of lofty pines make great spots for picnic lunches before venturing along the mule trails, amid fields of soy, chilies and red sorghum. Following some of the many concrete water courses installed by the China Tobacco Company, it is only thirty minutes though apple brakes and corn fields to a deep cut gorge, where water cascades down from the peaks in a year round torrent of mini waterfalls and cataracts. From here, the hardy can continue hiking along the slopes to discover shepherds' huts and mountain god shrines, while the rest of us, head back down through the ancient oak grove, and back to the Old Temple Theater for a well earned afternoon nap.
Of course, hiking is not the only option for adventure in Shaxi. The young at heart will find tree climbing opportunities in abundance, while two wheel fans can complete a tour of the many picturesque villages in the area. There are unexplored caves up at Shibaoshan, although the less adventurous like myself might prefer to interact with the many different domestic animals that are encountered everyday, observing, feeding and relaxing on their turf, a million miles away from the stresses and strains of big city life.
Guided Hiking from Old Theatre Inn or Pear Orchard Temple
A guided day hike from either of these central locations in the valley is RMB 300 per person including lunch. Group rates start at RMB 500 for the entire day for two people or more. For more information inquire here.
Red Rock Expeditions
For the more hardcore travelers, Red Rock Expeditions organize extensive horse treks along the many sub branches of the Tea Horse trails. Operator Edward Jocelyn, has a well earned reputation as a modern day explorer in China, being one of the very few to have walked the entirety of the historic Long March trek.
Starting in either Lijiang or Dali, Ed and his muleteers escort the intrepid across the many Tea Horse threads that surround the valley of Shaxi. Highlights include camping under the stars at Qingyuandong, where the crystal clear pool is fed from above by a cave spring, Fengyu market, Cibi Lake and the sea of rice paddies at Songhe. Ed works with veteran outdoor specialist Yang Xiao, and together they use local pack animals and muleteers to traverse some of the most spectacular routes in the area, visiting locations that are unlikely to ever be featured in an mainstream guidebook. Even so it is hoped that in time The Tea Horse routes will become as popular as the Appalachian Trail in the eastern United States, and the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia.