SUBSCRIBE | NEWSLETTERS | MAPS | VIDEOS | BLOGS | MARKETPLACE | CONTESTS
TRY BACKPACKER FREE!
SUBSCRIBE NOW and get
2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.

Also on Backpacker.com


Enter Zip Code

Backpacker Magazine – March 2009

China: The People's Hiking Revolution

As prosperity spreads across China, so does a passion for the outdoors. But can millions of new trekkers save Asia's vast wilderness from the march of development? Welcome to the world's next hiking frontier. PLUS, check out China's Top Treks.

by: Craig Simons, Photos by Matthieu Paley

Changhui downs a beer.
Changhui downs a beer.
Shatuo River campsite.
Shatuo River campsite.
Hiking behind the Chinese flag.
Hiking behind the Chinese flag.
Nationalism runs deep.
Nationalism runs deep.
Hiking through a garden.
Hiking through a garden.
A waterfall on Shatuo River.
A waterfall on Shatuo River.

Liquor shotguns his first beer at 10:29 a.m.

We've been hiking up a steep trail in southwestern China's Guizhou province, a place that looks a lot like Kentucky with bamboo. Fir, pine, and rhododendron also thrive here, at an elevation of 900 feet and roughly the latitude of Orlando, Florida. But there's nothing gentle about Guizhou's chaotic canyon topography–the result of India pushing into Asia, and dozens of rivers cutting through soft sandstone and limestone. Where the hillside isn't dead vertical, it's covered with dense, pack-grabbing vegetation. The temperature has climbed into the upper 80s, and the next ridge disappears into white-cotton humidity.

Liquor is a 20-year-old Chinese university student with a protruding stomach and soft, round features. This is his first backpacking trip, and it took only a few minutes on the trail before he questioned the wisdom of packing six cans of beer, especially since he's also carrying several large bags of fried rice, a jar of pickled chilies, and eight raw eggs. So he pops the tab on a Snow-brand beer, lifts it to his puffy lips, and tilts his head back. After draining the can, he knocks the top off a glass vial of glucose, drinks the syrupy liquid, and tosses the empty container on the ground. It rolls to a stop at the base of a pine tree.

Ultralight and Leave No Trace clearly aren't part of the program for Liquor and his seven companions, a local group I've joined for a five-day trek in Guizhou. But that's hardly a surprise. It took decades for those ideas to evolve among recreational hikers in the United States. Like American backpackers in the 1960s, China's new homegrown trekkers have only recently gained middle-class means–money and leisure time–to explore wilderness. And like our forebears, they have a lot to learn by trial and error.

A more pressing question is whether China's budding outdoor culture will promote a broader conservation ethic sorely lacking in the country today. China's cities and rivers are famously polluted, its factories contribute to smog and dust that reach American skies, and in 2008 the country surpassed the United States as the world's leading contributor–in total volume–of new greenhouse gases. I've lived in China for nearly a decade and have watched its exploding middle class embrace the trappings of prosperity–imported cars, bigger houses, flat-screen TVs, designer clothes–at a speed that can only make these well-known problems much worse. What's almost unknown, however, is that its burgeoning back-to-nature movement could change the way Chinese see–and protect–the environment. It was hikers and campers, after all, who ignited America's own environmental movement.

Will these nature-loving citizens push the country in a new direction, just as cash-hungry masses oiled China's shift toward capitalism? I had joined Liquor and his companions to find out what was happening at the leading edge of China's newest cultural revolution. But only one thing was certain after a few steps on the trail: Backpacking in China, like everything else in the country, would be unlike anywhere else in the world.

I live in Beijing, which means I had looked forward to my upcoming trek simply as an opportunity to clear my lungs: Beijing's air is abysmal–a miasma of sand, dirt, smoke, and car exhaust. My anticipation was also heightened because I've racked up some of my all-time favorite adventures in remote parts of China–a trek to Mt. Everest's eastern basecamp, hikes to secluded Buddhist pilgrimage sites in western China, a long bike ride along the Laotian and Burmese borders–and this exploratory trip promised more of the same.

Guizhou, our destination, has a growing reputation as a hiker's paradise. Only 3 percent of the Missouri-size province is flat, and it contains probably the highest concentration of waterfalls in China. Guizhou's forests protect rare mammals, including clouded leopards and snub-nosed monkeys. And while wealthier provinces have unsightly, overbuilt tourist infrastructures, Guizhou sees only a trickle of visitors. So when a Chinese friend introduced me to Guan Hongqing, a 28-year-old interior designer, and Guan mentioned that an informal hiking club he runs was planning the trip, I signed on.

The Tianya Backpackers Club (the name refers to a mythical Chinese paradise) gathers on a May morning in Chongqing, a megacity near the center of China. We meet in a restaurant at the bus and train depot. Guan has an athletic build and moves with quick intensity. He wears a battered baseball cap pulled low over his forehead.



Subscribe to Backpacker magazine
Sign up for our free weekly e-newsletter
Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email (req):
Reader Rating: -

READERS COMMENTS

Star Star Star Star Star
Trekking in Nepal
Mar 08, 2014

Acute Trek Pvt. Ltd. an indoor outdoor trekking and tours operative company takes you that further way to guarantee you has an unforgettable adventure that you have been dream of. Benefit, of course there is the Acute trek part of choice. We have your choose of trekking for 3 days or 30 or more days it depending of your timetable, sleep under lodges or tent. We always respect our duty to constantly your holiday satisfaction in Nepal. Whether you are looking for a quiet gateway, a memorable outing with a family or an exciting nature adventure. We offer you with the best progressive information and itinerary leading focused and modified as per your requirements. It is significant to memorize, though, it necessitate an enough level of physical homework and must remembers that there is also a psychosomatic assurance in walking in mountains. Acute trek is an attempt to encourage Nepal to the exterior world while striving to defend an aged tradition as well as conserve the surroundings for generation to come.

Acute Trek specialize in organize Nepal travel activities excursion such as:- Nepal trekking, Helicopter tour, peak climbing, rafting, mountain flight, Kayaking, Cannoning, Bird watching Tour, Honeymoon Tour, sightseeing, jungle safari, rock climbing, Pilgrim's Tour, Hotel Reservation, air ticket, Tibet Tour, Bhutan Tour, Paragliding, Bungee Jump, Eco Tour, local village tour and many more.

We dedicated ourselves to take each step essential to provide you and skill you will dotingly look back upon not kind what it cost you, as you will be recurring a wealthier person full of reminiscences. We, trekking and tours company in Nepal that is very believable, responsible and fully offers personage, group, tailored travel and trekking excursions in Nepal. If you would like to explorer lifetime knowledge of trekking and visiting destination of different part of Nepal as well as tours to Bhutan and destination Tibet in a secure and safe mode, then we is the exact agency for you. Our trekking tours involve knowledge all aspect of country, the enormous historical sites, natural loveliness and wildlife, most prominently, they give you the opportunity to get with local people and to see their custom first hand. Further you need not have to be an sportsperson, as trekking in Nepal and between the people is itself an well knowledge as trekking, tour, hiking is not climbing. Anyone with a join up to strong legs and strength of adventure to discover the exotic will pleasurable the excitement of trekking, tours and charming discovery.

http://www.trekshimalaya.com

Star Star Star Star Star
Hiking in Nepal
Mar 08, 2014

Hiking in Nepal an indoor outdoor trekking and tours operative company takes you that further way to guarantee you has an unforgettable adventure that you have been dream of. Benefit, of course there is the Hiking in Nepal part of choice. We have your choose of trekking for 3 days or 30 or more days it depending of your timetable, sleep under lodges or tent. We always respect our duty to constantly your holiday satisfaction in Nepal. Whether you are looking for a quiet gateway, a memorable outing with a family or an exciting nature adventure. We offer you with the best progressive information and itinerary leading focused and modified as per your requirements. It is significant to memorize, though, it necessitate an enough level of physical homework and must remembers that there is also a psychosomatic assurance in walking in mountains. Acute trek is an attempt to encourage Nepal to the exterior world while striving to defend an aged tradition as well as conserve the surroundings for generation to come.

Hiking in Nepal specialize in organize Nepal travel activities excursion such as:- Nepal trekking, Helicopter tour, peak climbing, rafting, mountain flight, Kayaking, Cannoning, Bird watching Tour, Honeymoon Tour, sightseeing, jungle safari, rock climbing, Pilgrim's Tour, Hotel Reservation, air ticket, Tibet Tour, Bhutan Tour, Paragliding, Bungee Jump, Eco Tour, local village tour and many more.

We dedicated ourselves to take each step essential to provide you and skill you will dotingly look back upon not kind what it cost you, as you will be recurring a wealthier person full of reminiscences. We, trekking and tours company in Nepal that is very believable, responsible and fully offers personage, group, tailored travel and trekking excursions in Nepal. If you would like to explorer lifetime knowledge of trekking and visiting destination of different part of Nepal as well as tours to Bhutan and destination Tibet in a secure and safe mode, then we is the exact agency for you. Our trekking tours involve knowledge all aspect of country, the enormous historical sites, natural loveliness and wildlife, most prominently, they give you the opportunity to get with local people and to see their custom first hand. Further you need not have to be an sportsperson, as trekking in Nepal and between the people is itself an well knowledge as trekking, tour, hiking is not climbing. Anyone with a join up to strong legs and strength of adventure to discover the exotic will pleasurable the excitement of trekking, tours and charming discovery. http://www.holidayhiking.com

Star Star Star Star Star
Trekking in Nepal
Mar 01, 2013

Acute Trek Pvt Ltd http://www.trekshimalaya.com an indoor outdoor trekking and tours operative takes you that further way to guarantee you has an unforgettable http://www.adventurestrekking.com adventure that you have been dream of. Whether you are looking for a quiet gateway, a memorable http://www.hikingsinnepal.blogspot.com outing with a family or an exciting nature adventure. We offer you with the best progressive information and itinerary leading focused and modified as per your requirements. Acute trek is an attempt to encourage Nepal to the exterior world while striving to defend an aged tradition as well as conserve the surroundings for generation to come.

steven newman
May 10, 2012

I have journeyed entirely on foot and with a backpack the lengths of Japan, S. Korea, and Taiwan. Soon I will be doing China. In all my journeys--including my solo walk around the world in the 1980s--I focus on the people. As a writer, I have always considered the people of this world to be my inspiration. This article has made me all the more eager to explore the people of China.

ADD A COMMENT

Your rating:
Your Name:

Comment:

My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Cute kissing snails!
Posted On: Apr 18, 2014
Submitted By: Montanalonewolf
The Political Arena
Homeless woman goes on an interview then
Posted On: Apr 18, 2014
Submitted By: KenV

Go
View all Gear
Find a retailer

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site MyRockyMountainPark.com.

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
City:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
State:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions