Where the World Meets the Sky: Trekking the Naxi, Yi
& Mosuo (004)
14 days*, Trek [Grade 2]
*For a 6-day trekking extension, go to Where the World Meets the Sky Extended.
D1 Kunming Hotel
D2 Yuhu village Flight, Guesthouse
D3 Baoshan Stone village 4WD/Bus, GH
D4-10 Trek to Lugu Trek (2), Homestay
D11 Arrive Lugu Lake Trek (2), GH
D12 Lugu Lake Guesthouse
D13 Lijiang or Yuhu 4WD/Bus, Hotel or GH
D14 Kunming Flight, Hotel
Arguably the most open and relaxed of China's provincial capitals, befitting to a province that straddles so many cultures and civilisations. Dubbed the 'City of Spring' due to its yearlong great climate, it's long been a summer getaway destination for the savvier of China's political and economic elite. Nowadays, it only has traces of the old city and its semi-colonial French influences, but the reconstruction has gone well and it retains much of the atmosphere (if not the actual buildings!) of earlier times.
Pick-up from the airport followed by an initial orientation. For those arriving early,
whereby Kunming isn’t chock-a-block with traditional ‘sights’,
it’s a relaxed and pleasant city to wander around, visit the Bird
& Flower market, sip tea by the lake, imbibe coffee at the pre-revolution
era coffee house, etc. Accommodation is by Green Lake in the northwest of
the city, a good place to use as a base for a rewarding stroll or two and
a chance to kick the jet lag.
D2 Yuhu village
An early flight to Lijiang, then heading directly to Yuhu, a small village nestled on the lower slopes of Jade Dragon Mountain. Amongst other things this was the home of Joseph Rock - who was in parts an explorer, a plant collector, a scholar of Naxi language, and a bit of a master of fakery - who roamed SW China in the 20s, 30s and 40s. Guided afternoon walk up the slopes of the hovering mountain is an option, after which it’s a home-cooked meal, and an evening of star gazing from the courtyard, before turning into clean, cosy rooms at this family-run guesthouse.
D3 Baoshan Stone village
Leaving the prosperous Lijiang valley heading north, destination Baoshan - an old and impressive village (dating back to Yuan Dynasty), built atop a huge rock outcrop, set in the land enclosed by the second bend of this mighty river. Locals claim this is the heartland of true Naxi culture (but then, who doesn’t!) and they’ve certainly got a brewing tradition to challenge you with on this question! The village is certainly one of a kind in SW China and who knows, maybe beyond! Steep streets and homes built into the rock, flowing fields of terraced rice paddies and the roar of the Yangtze, make for fascinating late afternoon strolls, and while last year they did run a road all the way through to here, locals are still happy with the novelty of visitors.
4WD or Bus, Guesthouse
D4-10 Baoshan to Lugu
Staying in villages and farmhouses along the way, the strength of Aku in guiding this trip, aside from his close knowledge of the area (he comes from Ninglang county, towards Lugu) is that the route is extremely flexible, thus allowing for him to be able to respond to changes in needs of his wards (you!) as well as avoiding too much repetition over the same path, to stop the local’s familiarity with visitors becoming something more akin to a commercial relationship! The landscape is both remote and beautiful, but not too taxing, the populace changing from largely Naxi to the much less known (although vastly more populous) Yi through to the matriarchal Mosuo of Lugu Lake. Accommodation inevitably is basic, and food simple, but if it’s close contact with NW Yunnan’s minority cultures you crave, this is the way to go.
Trek (2), Homestay
D11 Arrive Lugu Lake
A serene, clear and with an almost SE Asian feel, Lugu Lake - despite being the undisputed home of the Mosuo minority, famous for its matriarchal structure and ‘walking marriages’ - has also been the home of Naxi, Yi, Pumi and Tibetan peoples over the centuries. Leave the more touristed southern (Yunnan) side for the more tranquil northern (Sichuan) side.
Trek (2), Guesthouse
D12 Lugu Lake
“Where the world meets the sky” - the highest natural lake in China, it’s an excellent setting in which to relax for a day, potter around the lake, maybe hire a canoe (no motor boats allowed) and explore the islands. Or… if you like just put your feet up, grab a book and a beer and give your blisters a break…
D13 Lijiang or Yuhu
A 5-hour drive back to Lijiang and all its comforts. The town, which will seem rather Disneyland-esque at this point, remains one of the not-to-be-missed gems of SW China - an intriguing and beautiful old town - ancient canal system, thriving central market, traditional architecture, with abundant cafes in the centre. For a quieter option, tonight can also stay in Yuhu, small village located a short drive north of Lijiang. Nestled on the lower slopes of Jade Dragon Mountain, amongst other things this was the home of Joseph Rock - who was in parts an explorer, a plant collector, and a scholar of Naxi language, who roamed SW China in the 20s, 30s and 40s. At Yuhu there is a family-run guesthouse with clean cosy rooms and superb home-cooked meals.
4WD or bus, Hotel or Guesthouse
A little last minute shopping before an afternoon flight to Kunming, and a final meal together, which may just hold its own surprise!
A trip that takes in a broad sweep of the Naxi, Yi and Mosuo minorities of NW Yunnan, with 7 days of trekking (see the extension trip if 7 days' trekking isn’t enough for you) thrown in to allow you to get up close with the local cultures. This trek, designed by Aku, starts at the funky village of Baoshan Stone village (overlooking the Yangtze, in the area formed by the loop of the Second ‘Great Bend’), and ends at high altitude Lugu Lake. While most of the trek covers ground of 2000m+, the focus is on the villages and peoples of the area. The landscapes (at least in the second half), while often remote, prove to be gentler than the Himalayan peaks to the north, though early spring and late autumn see snow. Hence the trekking, though often demanding, is never extreme, and the pace allows for a steady and relaxing pace. Also in line with this focus, accommodation is in the farmhouses and villages we pass through, rather than camping. For the most part these are genuine homestays rather than the semi-commercial versions popping up in more trampled regions. Village life up close! The final destination of Lugu Lake serves as a great place to rest weary bones, maybe take a swim and generally reflect on the rigours of the previous weeks.
Photos & Text © 2003-2008 Haiwei Trails