Tongboshanzhen – Hiking between the burdens of Jiangxi and Fujian Provinces

To celebrate the beginning of the year of the goat we decide to go hiking for few days in the North-East area of Jiangxi province, on the burdens with Fujian province. Our goal is to escape from the grey walls of Shanghai and enjoy the Chinese New Year’s celebrations in the small villages of the countryside and between the forests of Jiangxi. To get there we first decide to reach Shangrao, around 3 hours by high-speed train from Shanghai.

How to reach Tongfang village

The train leaves from Shanghai on March 18th morning heading to Shangrao (上饶市 ), from here we find a driver met a local bus station that is collecting some locals met on the road back to their families to celebrate the CNY together with their families. The whole area of North Jiangxi, as for many other Chinese rural areas, has seen in the last decades more and more youngers leaving their villages to find work in more industrialized areas. We pass trough Guangfeng(广丰) and we finally reach Tongfang village (桐畈真). Here we expect to find a little hotel or a family renting some rooms. In small villages my presence is attracting quite much attention, so we try to keep a low profile. The area doesn’t has any structure suitable for foreigners but just a couple of motel for drivers and farmers. In the dark of the evening, everywhere are exploding firecrackers, in little wooden-house find decided to have our dinner. The cook is preparing the New Year’s Eve dinner for his family. Happy to see us, they take our orders and share part of their meal with us and all the best wishes. Despite our efforts to keep a low profile, at night a group of policemen come check our documents.  Once is made sure that we are here for pleasure and to explore the bellyful landscapes around they tell us:”yes, around our village the panorama is not that bad. Enjoy your trip and Happy New Year“. Most probably this little village never hosted foreigners before. We chose to come here because we want to hike between 3 valleys to reach Tongboshan Village (桐拨山真)a big river-side village on the South-West。The village is very simple and not very attractive, so we decide to wake up early.

Tongfang old streets.

The old streets of Tongfang village.

Day1- Hike

During the first day we consider to cover around 20 kms by walk, the total hike will take to us 7 hours. Here the map from wikiloc (click here) and below the picture of the trip. We wake up early in the morning because it’s our first time in this area and the sun sets around 18:00 in this part of China in winter time. All the villages are celebrating the CNY and the sound of fireworks and firecrackers are loud in the streets. Everywhere the red envelops of the fireworks are lying in the floor after the detonation. Once again we try to don’t spend too much time in this part of the valley to avoid to create too much attention. Where we go everyone stops and stares at me, which makes us understand that perhaps mostly Chinese hikers are visiting the valley. Despite the funny reactions everyone is very kind with us and friendly in giving us directions.

Despite of the interesting activities, we try to speed up to look for more interesting valleys. The first river we cross is heavily polluted, we stops few seconds staring to a dead fish and we leave. Soon the landscape change, suddenly we find ourselves in the middle of the small hills rural-life, quite different from the one of the morning of the valleys. We cross the villages of Caijia, Xiashangtou, Yijia, and Shixicun heading South-East. Mostly each of this villages is composed by few houses with his inmates dining outside. In Shixicun we found a little grocery store and we take the chance to take a little break and to talk to the owners. The cordiality of small villages is appreciated. A coup of hot tea is always served to us, followed by some questions.

-“Who are you looking for?”, asks us a the owner of the garage/grocery store.

-“Actually, we are just traveling. We like hiking, we live in Shanghai and we wanted to have a few days of rest in the nature. We heard here the landscapes are beautiful.”

Perhaps this is one of the first warmth of the season, so nobody is walking in this valleys, but the owner of the grocery store tells  us that time to time some Chinese hikers from the big cities are coming in the valleys. In the between, little kids fire their firecrackers laughing. We thanks for the hospitality and we buy some cookies.

-“Be careful to don’t get lost on the way, soon also the small pathway will disappear.”

This is actually the reason why we chose this path. To reach this valleys, as for my previous trips, my research usually starts looking at some google-map, Chinese blogs and wikiloc. I would like to suggest to everyone to consider wikiloc, since it’s actually possible to check on others tracks, pictures and comments. The landscapers are getting more and more interesting. After 60-80 minutes of walking trough few small valleys find time to time little farms. We ask some direction to a family, and we cross the second mountain.

An old man in the last house we encounter explains us how to arrive to our next destination, by walking between the little mountain’s routes. Also his family has reunited in this old house where he lives with his wife just to spend the Chinese New Year. The sons are all working outside this valleys are don’t seems to remember how to move between the hills. Arrived at Shixincun we walked between the valleys using the old routes that used to connected the small farms between themselves. At Km 14th we arrived in Liutiancun where we take a little break in a small resting house on the old roads (通往木城关的山路).

We walk trough the mountains, pass trough Gaozhuan (高庄) behind Jiangshanling peak.We find a small pregnant water-buffalo in the middle of the route which let us pass between the hills. Soon we rich a road that show us a different vegetation of japanese pines and forests, quite different from the valleys which are sourrounded by bamboos and little bushes. Around 16:00 reach Tongbashanzhen village.

 The night in the village.

The valleys are now in joy and the streets are full of people which came back to their home towns to celebrate the Chinese New Year. This relaxed and festive atmosphere is quite different from the one the big cities where there is no space for kids to run in the streets and for people to greet their friends during their walk. We spend the night in a local house which has some rooms for drivers and for those coming from other valleys. A man and his 8 years old daughter came back from Zhejiang Province. The man explain us that he is coming back to Tongboshan only during CNY. He grew up here and he used to walk trough the path we took today to visit his grandmother when he was a kid. We understand they don’t have easy lives, he is working in some factory and hi hasn’t seen his wife in two years. He give us more directions about the area and we spend our dinnertime in our conversations. We check the weather forecasts and unfortunately our worries are confirmed, we should move away from the area because a two-days-long of heavy rains will starts the following day. We decide to go back to Shangrao and there to reach Qinghua(青华), an old town in the North-East of the Jiangxi province on the burdens of Anhui(安徽), in the county of Wuyuan(婺源).

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