Friday, March 02, 2012

First Day in the Nujiang Valley

We started this trip in December with three planned objectives for Asia: attend a cousin's wedding in Shanghai, visit Taiwan, and travel up the Nu Jiang (Nu River) valley in Yunnan, China. So finally we hit the Nujiang Valley at 11:15AM on February 29, 2012, crossing the bridge at Dao Jie and heading up S230 along the west side of the Nu (known as the Salween outside China). Our goal is to head north 400 kilometers to Bingzhongluo. But not all in one day. But not all in one day. Today we will stop in Mangquan, about 65 kms north, after checking out an old bridge along the way.

The ride up the valley is quite scenic with fields of sugarcane on the semi-flat spots on the eastern hills and planted bougainvillea along the road. The driver lets us off at a sign that says: Shuang Hong Qiao (Double Rainbow Bridge) 500 meters. We hop off the bus with all our gear. The plan is to check out the old suspension bridge, have a snack, then flag down passing north-bound transport to MangQuan, the next town.

There has been a bridge at this spot - a narrow, rocky section with an island one-third of the way across - since 1779. The current bridge dates to 1921 says an inscription on a beam. Actually there are two separate bridges connected/joined by the island.

The bridge is still used by the locals. While we were there, three motorcycles drove across, and there is "evidence" that mules or donkeys regularly cross. ;-)

After crossing to the west bank, we returned to the island for a stretch, water, and sesame cookies; then trudged up the steep path to the road, and within 5 minutes were on a minibus to Mangquan.

Mangquan has a sight, the Sandieshui or Three Piles Waterfalls. So immediately after getting a room at the hotel across from the transport depot, we set out for the 4km walk to the falls.

Our progress was very slow at first. In addition to awesome scenery, it is harvest time for three local cash crops: sugarcane, tobacco, and coffee. I stopped many times to take photos. Especially interesting to us North Carolinians is the local short-leafed tobacco with leaves 6 inches long at most, in two varieties called "fragrant" and "roasted" by the locals. In the morning, the stalks are cut and taken home where the leaves are cut off the stalk, strung up, and hung in the greenhouses.

Evidence of the coffee harvest is all around. Pungent dark red empty hulls composting by the road. Light brown beans drying in courtyards, and workers coming down from the hills at the end of the day with sacks of newly picked beans.

Once we passed through the village and into the dark green coffee fields our pace quicken even as we headed uphill. At the end of the 4km road, a stone path led straight up. An hour later we were at the top of the three waterfalls and the adjacent Buddhist Temples. Awesome views due east to the town, the Nu Jiang, and the far bank's hills. The waterfalls were much less awesome as only a trickle was flowing down the big stone walls.

Insight: An old man was tending the temples. We have climbed far and high to reach many temples and there is never a wise holy man at the top like in the movies, only greedy old men or women who want to collect a fee or sell something; or like today, a tottering old man who nods, gestures and mumbles.

A light rain began to fall as we headed back to town and less than 2 hours later were enjoying a terrifc meal at a family run restaurant a few meters from the hotel. A great way to start our Nujiang Adventure.

Sun-Ling, wtih red pack cover, on the Shuang Hong Bridge. The far, eastern, bridge has the longer span.

Motorcycle guy on western bridge.

A man walks across the eastern span.

Snack time on the island between the two bridges.

Sugarcane harvest in Mangquan.

Coffee in front, short leaf tobacco behind, and the distance the sugarcane fields of the far bank.

Tobacco fields.

Processing tobacco. You can see the stalks with leaves, bare stalks, and strings of leaves.
Drying tobacco.


Drying the tobacco.

Cured leaf.

Drying coffee in the courtyard.

Coffee fields above town.

A beautiful walk up to the waterfalls.

Old man tending the temple that is next to the middle waterfall.

View from the uppermost temple back to Mangquan as a light rain begins to fall.

Descending the stairs.

Burning cane fields at night as seen from our hotel room.

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