In 2010, Scott and Ozzie had parted my company in SaPa to travel to Ha Giang Province (where we are now) and had reached the edge of an undisturbed forest much too late in the day to adequately explore the environs before having to turn back due to lack of light. Although yesterday, 10/9/13, had satisfied many of our questions as to what might have been found had time allowed, it was decided to return to the same mountain on the Chinese/Vietnam frontier, less than 10 miles from the Yunnan border, to the precise location they had visited. A considerable drive from Ban Quan, it was mid-morning and uncomfortably warm by the time we reached the trailhead. As are much of the ‘trails’ in the mountains here, ours was not meant for climbing up as much as for sliding logs down to the valley below. Scott, apprehensive of again reaching the forests with insufficient time to explore, shot out of the gates at a breakneck pace and I felt compelled to keep up with the front runner. It was encouraging to feel the confidence return to my knees after our trek on Five Fingers, which will be welcomed during our trek in northern Myanmar next week. [Read more…]
A mid morning departure from SaPa on 10/8/13 allowed for our boots and associated gear to be dried at a local laundry, but would put us to our destination much later than we had hoped. The 8 hour drive to the northeast, through idyllic minority villages in a celebratory mood at the height of the rice harvest, would take us to the frontier town of Ban Quan. It is a modest and remote town built amidst a fanciful and highly weathered geology of karst limestone. Arising even amongst the town itself are symmetrical cones several hundred feet high, suggesting more ancient ruins of a former civilization than a natural geological process. [Read more…]
In no way do I consider myself Herculean, although I do fancy myself in reasonable physical condition; I work out religiously five days a week. Yet tonight, 10/8/13, I am drained of energy, hobbled by lameness of the limbs and punctured by a heady assortment of thorns, insects and leaches.
On Saturday, Oct 5th, after a frenzy of organizing the gear we felt necessary for two nights on the mountain, we left for the trail head -about an hours drive from our hill station of Sa Pa, passing the devastated village of Ban Khoang enroute; a landslide there three weeks prior during heavy rains had sadly swept much of the settlement away while taking the lives of 12. Near the trailhead, we stopped to pick up our prearranged local guide who waited for us along the road. Our own guide, Uoc le Huu, had never before taken this route that was meant to take two long days. [Read more…]
Our 12 night train from Ha Noi to Sa Pa carried four travel wearied souls with our gear to within a mile of the Chinese border on Thursday after a brief reconnoiter at the Asia Star hotel, our perennial but clean and friendly 1 star accommodation in the old quarter of the city. Andrew Bunting, president of the International Magnolia Society, had flown from Philadelphia via Seoul, Ozzie Johnson had flown from Atlanta via Narita, Scott McMahan from Atlanta via Bangkok and I to Hanoi via San Francisco; miraculously, we had all arrived perfectly in sync.
Rather than burning a day nursing our collective needs to recover, we hurriedly repacked out gear at 7am, consumed a quick breakfast of steamed rice cake and set off to Seomity, a hill tribe settlement of mostly H’mong people. I was curious to check on the status of an old specimen of a rare deciduous conifer, Glyptostrobus pencilis, I had seen here in 2006 during my fourth trip to northern Vietnam. [Read more…]
A long half-day of backtracking from our night’s stay in Hezeng led us to the basement of our target elevation of 2,000m, what we consider the goldilocks zone for observation of plants appropriate in zones 7-10.. The 100 Li of Rhododendrons (essentially 100 kilometers of Rhododendron) is a municipal reserve of mostly second growth Rhododendron forest in near monochromosis, comprised of R. delavayi, R. irroratum and the ubiquitous R. decora, the later being reminiscent of the evergreen azaleas prominent in American horticulture; a few of the latter were in off-season blossom in tones of blazing salmon-pink, proving the forebears of the modern hybrids themselves often possess a general unpalatable character. [Read more…]