Getting lost on the Dragon Backbone Rice Terraces

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January 6th 2012
Published: February 13th 2012
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Dragon Backbone TerracesDragon Backbone TerracesDragon Backbone Terraces

can you see any dragon?

… Literally Getting Lost ....

We arrived in Guilin early in the morning and according to LP just in time to catch the forward bus to Longji National Park. We did not book any accommodation so we were not sure if they would have place for us on that bus but with the winter season upon China we were pretty confident it wont be full. We tried few buses with no positive result until we stumbled across tourist agent who told us when and where the bus was leaving from. The main bus station seems to be located just in front of the Train Station in Guilin which was great news for us. We bought tickets for the bus from the same agent (40Y each) even though she was trying to charge us more than necessary. We told her that we were advised the correct price by tourist information so we were not paying more and she gave us. This was also the first time we heard - “It is because of the Chinese Happy New Year”. The sentence that was going to haunt us for the next month or so ;-)

We did not plan to stay in Guilin at all and we spent maybe an hour in that place all together. It took us 4h to get to Longji and we loved the views on the way, even though it was raining and we have to put more layers on very quickly (entry fee 80Y/8£). We got dropped at the gate of the park and we had to walk 10 minutes to the nearest village – Dazhai. There are many options to stay in even though LP only mentions few of them. In our opinion reservation is not necessary if you want to stay at the foot of a mountain. You can also climb all the way up to Ping'an (or take a bus from Longshen to the top) to wake up to the best views in the whole valley. With the rain and cold we opted for Dazhai village and we left the climb for the following days. We did in fact choose a guesthouse located a little bit above the village – Minority Guesthouse mentioned in LP – with lovely and very cheap rooms (40-60Y per room) and stunning view over the village. It took us some time to get there as we did not know the exact directions and noone in the village spoke English enough to help us. We walked over the edges of rice terraces and we loved it. For some reason this place made us smile so much - was just so beautiful;-) The owner also spoke good English which is unusual in Longji and we could not appreciate more little chats we had with her during the stay.

We had a very nice lunch and decided to do some trekking up the mountain as we still had few hours before the sunset. The views were stunning even though it was raining. The terraces have four different looks depending on the season. We should have seen the 'Winter' one but it was more of an 'Autumn' look to us. Yellow grass all over the terraces, golden colours of leaves on trees etc. We climbed half of the trail and decided to make a loop down and come back to Dazhai from the other side of the valley. There were signs all over the place and we felt pretty confident about the next day hike up. In fact we saw some picture boards showing all the nice viewing spots so we could not wait for the next day. After having delicious Bamboo Rice (local speciality – rice and bacon steamed in bamboo) and turning on our electric blankets we were ready to sleep. It was our first encounter with electric blankets in China. Why on earth did they not use them in the North of China? It would have made hell of a difference when it was really cold. The silence was nice too. No traffic, no crowds on the streets, no music – just silence of the National Park.

We got up early, had yummy breakfast and we were ready to go up. Weather seemed to have improved so we were really happy about that. We first wanted to go off the trail a bit and visit Golden Buddha Peak, directions to which we saw the day before. It was hard climb, I must admit. Good 30-45 min. just up the paved stairs. We were really impressed by the way all the trails are paved and signed. We finally reached the peak and views were really nice but not yet what we had in mind. We followed the trail to the peak and must have done another 1-2h before we came to the point where clouds covered all of the views of the valley. There will be no views from the top – we thought ;-( We also couldn't see trail signs any more. We had no water with us so we drank from the mountain stream (we assumed there would be villages on the way - rookie mistake number 1).

Steps suddenly appeared to be all iced up so we must have been pretty high up. More and more steps and we finally reached the peak or at least what we though it was. We could not see much except for iced up grass fields and trees. It was really dreamy up there – all white and misty ;-) Finally we started to descent and we were confident we would find Ping'an village soon. Suddenly paths forked and we had to use our gut feeling to decide where to go. Based on where we though we were we went straight instead of left and we started to walk alongside the hill coming across small houses and rice paddies. We thought we did well as we approached some village. There was noone to be seen however so we just past through it as there was no way it was Ping'an.

The mist finally vanished and we could see a valley. It was some valley as for sure it was not the valley that Dazhai was located in. We spotted a road and our valley did not have any. Whilst walking down the mountain we tried to ask locals where we are but they could not understand us at all (we did not have a map - rookie mistake number 2!). We kept walking and walking and it was raining ice by now ;-( We found a school and one of the teachers told us that we were actually on THE OTHER SIDE OF THE MOUNTAIN. Holly cow what have we done?

So the options were not great. Either walk back 3-4h across the mountain or walk down to the nearest town where we could get some transport back to Dazai. It was after 3 pm so we did not have that much time left. We started to walk down thinking of our options. We might stay the night in this town and get the bus back the next morning. All of our belongings were in Dazhai and our hostess would probably worry if we did not come home. Looking on the bright side the views over this side of a mountain were even more amazing than in Longji. We thought it should have been mentioned in the guidebook even though there was no tourism infrastructure in place over there;-) Suddenly some truck that looked like one of those mobile fridge-freezers cabe by and back door opened. We were invited to hop in and to our surprise there were around 10 more people inside. Some kind of local bus maybe? To us it looked a little bit like vehicle for people trafficking but in our situation we would never have declined such offer.

We were standing by the open door and I could see in the corner of my eye how the truck was sliding from one side to another just maybe 0,5 away from the hill side. The road was just a muddy path really so we both looked a little more than scared. “If it falls down we jump, we are first by the door” - we agreed! Of course it did not but in situations like that you always have to think of plan B, right? In what seemed like the longest 30 min in our lives we were dropped at the bottom of the hill. We got that ride for free as well – amazing kindness of local people! They show us the direction we had to go next and we started to walk. We put our thumbs up whenever there was any car passing by but we had no luck. Finally small truck stopped and gave us a lift to Longshen bus station for free!!! It was lucky cause we did not have much money on us and in case we had to stay over night we needed this money a lot (not having a lot of money on us - rookie mistake number 3!).

We finally got some food and water. Tt was 4:30 pm and we had not eaten anything for the whole day. Funny how it never even crossed our mind that we were hungry ;-) We were told that there would be one last bus to Dazhai at 4:45. How lucky – we were just on time. 4:45 passed though and they finally told us that bus would not arrive and that we had to go to Ping'an instead - top if the mountain in Longji and 5h trek down to Dazhai. How did that simple trekking came to this never ending way home, I wondered? We were already sitting in the Ping'an bus when someone started shouting that Dazhai bus arrived. We quickly changed buses and in 5 min we were on the way home – really relieved!!! More luck than brains today – we thought ;-) In 1h we would be home with great food and electric blankets to warm us up.

30 min later the bus stopped and we were told that due to icing it would not go any further. We were lucky again that there was one young boy with us who was from Dazhai so he was able to explain the situation to us. We were 8km away and we would have to walk in a darkness. He got us some torches and raincoats and we started walking. In 20 min or so another truck stopped by and the boy negotiated for us to be taken on. We had to go at the back where loads of boxes and parcels were stored but we would not complain. It would cost us 20Y/2£, very little for such ride however the boy would pay nothing. There was no place for free help in this case! We did not mind and would have paid way more just to be quicker in Dazai. When we finally got there and the thought of electric blankets was the only thing that kept us smiling we saw full darkness above Dazai. And then the boy went: “Ow, I forgot to tell you that the electricity is out due to snow”. There would be no electric blankets in the end.....

Our hostess was very happy to see us and she invited us for some food cooked over a bonfire. Kitchen was obviously not working so she could only fix us some beef soup with noodles that seemed like the best soup we ever had;-) We spent some time with the family (and their dog) in the little shed next to our guest-house and then we suddenly felt how tired we were. There were no electric blankets but 4 big duvets at night and it was still good and warm!!! In the morning it was hard to believe that yesterday had happened and all this even seemed funny to us. So many mistakes made just by overlooking the fact that we were in the moutains not some tourist retreat ;-) Choosing Dazhai was the right move as with the snow on the path it would have been hell of a journey to climb down to take a bus back to Guilin. We got the winter view in the end as well. Was it better? Hard to say as it seems that this place is beautiful no matter what time of a year you arrive. Maybe for the peak view we would rather advise summer time ;-)

Additional photos below
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local luggage carrierlocal luggage carrier
local luggage carrier

such hard work for local women

13th February 2012

Mistakes make the best stories...
as long as you are lucky and get home at the end of the day.
15th February 2012

Takes me back to other idea of bliss. To get lost there...surprizingly easy...getting as lost as you guys...well that's an achievement...even having to walk part of the way in the dark...even better..! You did score some excellent clear shots of the terraces...that time of year...definitely lucky there.
15th February 2012

Thanks Dave
all things considered it was still great experience;-)

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