Saturday, 6 May 2017

CHINA: Yunnan Red Earth Largely Unknown Among Tourists

Yunnan arguably the most diverse province in China, is a photographer’s paradise for both its mix of ethnic minorities and splendid landscapes.

Apart from the capital Kunming, historic Dali and world-famous Shangri-la, the southwestern region boasts many smaller, yet equally beautiful, places — such as Dongchuan, a less-known area 150 kilometers from Kunming.

At the north of the Yungui (Yunnan-Guizhou) Plateau, Dongchuan is largely unknown among tourists.

While travelers are amazed by the magnificent Meili Snow Mountain in Diqing and the Yulong Snow Mountain near Lijiang, they probably don’t realize that Dongchuan has a similarly gorgeous mountain, the 4,223-meter Jiaozi (sedan chair) Snow Mountain.

Dongchuan boasts high mountains and deep ravines, resulting in unique landforms and landscapes. Among them, red earth is a special feature.

The rural area of Hongtudi Town, in the Wumeng Mountain area, is hugely popular among amateur and professional photographers for its unique red earth scenery, for which the town wins its name.

In the mid-1990s, professional Chinese photographers started discovering the Wumeng scenery, but instead of exposing the natural gem, they chose to keep it a secret to protect the area. But with the photos widely exhibited, more visitors and amateur photographers are making the arduous trip to the mountainous area.

The brilliant red soil, a sharp contrast with the yellow rapeseed flowers and the deep blue skies, makes the region in Dongchuan a paradise for adventurers.

The famous red earth scenery which can be mostly found between 1,800 and 2,600 meters above sea level results partly from high temperatures and frequent rain. Rich in iron and aluminum, the soil is arid and lacks in organic matter.

The best place to see a vast, typical red soil scene is at Huashitou (109km marker), where mountains and fields display different shades of reds — crimson, magenta and rusty red.

Hilltops afar are blooming with layers of layers of colors, such as green, white and gold. Experts say Huashitou red soil is one of the world’s most imposing such scenes, second only to that of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.

Damakan, a viewpoint about 9 kilometers away from Huashitou along a bumpy dirt track, is one of the photographers’ favorites.

When the light comes out, the small village several hundred meters below gets busy and smoke starts rising from the farm houses. After lunch, it’s time for another shoot as the light turns warmer and brings out the best in Dongchuan’s colors.

How to get there: The flight from Shanghai to Kunming is almost four hours. Buses to Dongchuan — about three hours — are available at both Kunming North Bus Station and Kunming East Bus Station. Renting a car from Kunming to Huagou costs around 250 yuan (US$36.23) one way.

The best time to visit Dongchuan is from May to June, or from September to December.

In Nepal, Mountaineering expedition organizers in Nepal are sending huge trash bags with climbers on Mount Everest during the spring climbing season to collect trash that then can be winched by helicopters back to the base camp.

Dambar Parajuli of the Expedition Operators Association of Nepal said recently that bags have already been sent to the base camp to be carried by climbers, guides and porters to higher elevations.

Each bag can hold up to 80 kilograms of trash and can be hooked to helicopters at Camp 2 to be flown back to the base camp. The helicopters, after dropping off supplies and equipment at the camp located at 6,400 meters, generally fly back empty.

Hundreds of climbers and their guides are expected to attempt to scale the 8,850-meter peak during the spring season. Climbers generally arrive in April and attempt to reach the summit in May when weather conditions are favorable. They leave behind a lot of garbage.

Climbers also say it is urgent to remove the trash left by previous expeditions at Camp 2, which was set up in 2014 and 2015 when tragedies forced an early end to the climbs.

The 2014 season was canceled after 16 Nepalese guides were killed in an avalanche, and the following year an earthquake-triggered avalanche swept the base camp, killing 19 people.

Veteran guide Russell Brice said the tents and supplies that were left behind have to be removed.

Doing it by helicopter means Sherpa guides do not have to risk carrying heavy loads of trash through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall to the base camp.

Brice, one of the leading expedition organizers, said that for trash left higher up the mountain he was offering Sherpa guides carrying equipment up the mountain for their clients to bring back bags filled with trash to Camp 2.

They would be paid US$2 per kilogram, and would use bags that can hold 5 kilograms.