12pm, the work day is done and I have another filling lunch in front of me provided by the chef as part of my volunteering benefits at This Old Place Youth Hostel. I’m debating whether to hike or not as the last two days have been exhausting though adventurous. I search my newly discovered app for the closest sight to visit. I glimpse the word viewpoint down the list and forget about my tired feet. It’s decided. Trekking to a viewpoint through organic farmland is today’s agenda.
The hostel is in a perfect location for the expedition ahead. Stepping out and turning right, within 30 seconds I’m at a ferry point. Crossing the Li River within minutes I jump off and follow the signs for Nirvana Organic Farm Inn. The Inn is the third property owned by This Old Place and sits at the foot of the Yuanbao Mountain, which is painted on the reverse side of the new ¥20 note. I’m lost in this stunning scenery. Surrounded by ecological farms, gardens and orchards, my company on the road are the village dogs and chickens. The architecture is traditional Chinese style, many have open walls where clothes are hanging to dry. The river is full of bamboo boats drifting peacefully around the mountains.
Now and again I pass the farmers in the trees tending to their plantation. I’m relatively alone on this hike, wandering slowly through the mountains, lost in an ancient world. The dirt track path I’m following is a poor imitation of the beautiful mountains around me. I hope it doesn’t rain as it would be like trekking through murky pools. Every bike that passes I stay clear out of the way to allow them to navigate this assault course.
The sounds of birds and the scatter of lizards as I intrude their path all adds to the feeling of being in some tropical jungle away from society. The mountains are a lush green and for the most part untouched. Life is simple out here, peaceful. That’s not to suggest the work that farmers do here is easy. Every generation is involved in maintaining the lifestyle here. I imagine the area could suffer quite considerably from Southern China’s volatile weather conditions, particularly as the area is so remote.
As the road becomes steeper I’m grateful for the light rain that begins to fall. The mountain viewpoint will not be at its most spectacular with the haze that is falling but I have no doubt it will be worth the near two hours it will take to reach. The final stretch of the journey is on an actual road, not the uninviting dirt track that seems unsuitable for any mode of transport. It’s not long before a small bus pulls up on the side of the road to try and usher me inside. From what I can tell they think my destination is Yangshuo. I reassure them it’s not without being able to tell them the name of where the viewpoint lies. They reluctantly continue on their path. The locals here have been the warmest people I have met so far in China.
Further down the road I peer from under my umbrella to answer the familiar “elo”. Every Chinese person seems to know the English for hello. There are two women perched on an unbelievably small stool. They are ushering me over. We are all using our hands and our native tongue to try and communicate. They want to know where I’m going, again they think I’m attempting to walk to Yangshuo or at least to a bus stop to get there. I try my best to explain I’m walking to an unknown viewpoint to take a picture. They look at each other, look back to me and point to a motorbike abandoned behind them. I smile and start to gather that hiking really isn’t a thing in China.
I walk on, there is only 15minutes left to my intended destination yet it just seems like I’m following a regular road. I start to think the journey and not the destination will be the most scenic part of this route. Of course I’m wrong. I turn a corner following a steep incline and can see a stone platform ahead. With a little skip in my step I walk onto the platform. I can’t help but smile, the view is breathtaking. All the view’s in this area of China are breathtaking yet every time I reach a new viewpoint it’s like seeing these mountains again for the first time.