Wulong County in Chongqing Municipality is a limestone karst area of China which has recently been granted UNESCO World Heritage protected status. It is geographically remote and as recently as five years ago there were no good rail or road links to the county which was rarely visited by outsiders. There is now a major road link to Chongqing and a railway with a motorway under construction. Local tourism based on extensive natural scenery is starting to develop and now accounts for a significant proportion of the county's income. Few foreigners have made the trip, although Wulong has just appeared as a destination in the most recent edition of Lonely Planet Southwest China so this is likely to change rapidly. It is a very popular area for exploratory caving in China and is the base of the international Hongmeigui Cave Exploration Society (www.hongmeigui.net) who have been exploring the caves here since 2001. The county is home to many of the deepest and longest caves in China. More regular tourist attractions include the Three Natural Bridges National Park (Impressive karst landscape used in the filming of Zhang Yimao's "Curse of the Golden Flower"), Furong Dong (Show cave) and Longshui Gorge. It's also a good opportunity to see life in rural china with farming continuing much as it has done for many centuries.
Matt Ryan will guide the trip and knows the area and local people very well from numerous extended caving expeditions in the area and Dragon Expeditions have visited the area with groups on a couple of occasions now. It is not however an established area for trekking by any operator. If you expect a smooth, slickly oiled package tour then you will be disappointed. If you look forward to a genuine impression of rural China then you will not be. This is not a country where things happen smoothly or logically at the best of times but this is especially the case when we are taking part in an activity which the locals struggle to understand the purpose of! We can realistically expect to have some difficulties finding suitable accommodation or transport and may well end up waiting around more than would ordinarily be expected.
D1: Travel to Wulong
We will meet in Chengdu at a pre-arranged location at around 4pm for dinner before getting taxis or a bus to the North train station in time for the evening train to Wulong. Whilst we do not need to change trains, the way the ticketing system works it is often only possible to book tickets in advance for part of the journey. This may leave us without seats for the last couple of hours.
D2: Arrival in Wulong, Furong Dong
We arrive in Wulong shortly after 3am which (for the keen) still gives us plenty of time for some beer and BBQ. An easy day can be had travelling to Furong Dong and the nearby reservoir to wander around the showcave and have a trip across the river on a zip wire (flying fox), crash landing in a mattress the far side.
Houping is an isolated farming town in the North of the county, around 100km by road from Wulong town. Roads are in reasonable condition for most of the journey and we should get some good views of the Muzhong Valley as we travel. Arriving mid afternoon leaves us time to have a look around town or a quick foray into the hills behind.
Houping is known to geologist for its deep Tiankengs, one of which we will visit before heading downhill to our next destination, Tongzi. A Tiankeng (lit. Skypit) is a Karst feature at least 100m deep and wide with straight sides. Of the 73 documented Tiankengs worldwide, 49 are found in China. Houping's is one of the key areas for Tiankeng in China and makes it one of the three core zones of the World Heritage site. Our route to Tongzi is mostly downhill amongst farmland and we will pass through Erwangdong village (Second great cave) and Mawangdong resurgence (Mother of great caves). Tongzi itself is a slightly larger town than Houping and fairly typical of small agricultural market towns in China.
D5: Tongzi to Huolu
Before a road was built from Wulong to Houping a long footpath was the main means of access to the Muzhong and surrounding valleys. We will attempt to locate this old track which passes through some ancient and second growth forest as well as farmland. The evening should see us in Huolu, a yet bigger market town much closer to Wulong.
D6: Longshui Gorge
From Huolu 45 minutes on motorbikes or in a minibus will get us down to Baiguo, a smaller town but an active tourism destination with some good Chinese restaurants. Baiguo is home to Longshui Gorge, a picturesque deep and narrow canyon now readily accessible by elevator!
From Huolu it is a relatively short ride to the Three Natural Bridges Scenic Area, a unique and impressive Karst landscape. No visit to Wulong would be complete without a trip here. Here we will look around the well thought out visitor centre with it's models and maps of the area before doing the usual tourist thing and take lots of photos before heading back down to Baiguo for the night.
D8: Return to Chongqing
From Baiguo a short ride down the hill takes us to Wulong where there are regular busses up the Wujiang valley to Chongqing. The valley itself is well worth staying awake for with impressive folded rocks, cave resurgences and river traffic battling the rapids. It's well worth spending a night in Chongqing to visit what is occasionally claimed to be the world's largest city (some 31 million people live in the municipality, although this figure includes the population of a huge rural area - Wulong included). There are a number of museums and sights, well worth a visit is the "China Three Gorges Museum" with its displays relating to the Three Gorges Dam and the areas upstream thereof.
As you will be carrying everything on your back for a few days it is best to minimise what you are carrying. A bag of 10-15kgs is perfectly feasible. Anything heavier and you'll be regretting that extra stuff you carried "just in case"
We will be staying in cheap rural hotel accommodation with limited or no heating. Do not expect inside to be much warmer than out. Bring plenty of warm clothes, you will probably end up wearing all your clothes at once - which at least means you do not have to carry much. A sleeping bag and sleeping mat are not required, although if the weather is cold or you are concerned about cleanliness then you might appreciate a thin sleeping bag to use in addition to the hotel blankets.
Food is pretty much a case of "whatever is available." Usually it's pretty tasty although it can often be quite greasy for city palates. Although food can be hot, non spicy dishes can usually be arranged. Strict vegetarians will struggle. Unless you are happy just picking the meat out of regular dishes you will be best off bringing supplementary food from Chengdu or overseas. Do not simply plan on missing meals if there is nothing suitable; we will be exercising hard and calories are essential for success. Please let us know as soon as possible if you have any special dietary requirements.
A suggested equipment list is as follows:
- Warm fleece or down jacket
- Waterproof jacket
- Warm thermal top and trousers
- Two pairs of comfortable trousers (not cotton / denim)
- Hat, gloves
- Three pairs of thick socks
- Change of underwear
- Comfortable boots for walking
- Plastic / enamel cup
- Head torch
- Toothbrush, toilet paper and a few other minimal toiletries
- Chocolate and other snack food
- MP3 player / book
Dragon Expeditions will bring a group first aid kit, gas powered stove and kettle, maps and a gps.
|Trekking in the Chongqing Karst.pdf||313.65 KB|