All of us living in Xi’an have at some point looked to the South and thought about what is exactly beyond the TV tower, what lies in the Qinling Mountains. Yes some of us have been to Cui Hua Shan and a few even actually have ventured into the mountains for horseback riding, water rafting and skiing but what about actually having no destination just poking around and see what can be found? Very few have the means to actually adventure around the mountains.
Let’s put it out there right now that the Qinling mountains are huge, they extend almost to Sichuan province, to the east they occupy half of Henan province, jutting they west they cut into Gansu right up to Lanzhou so when we talk about traveling around we mean only a very small portion not the entire range. While there are smaller and larger roads into the mountains Qinling is still a wild area of the Earth with vast square kilometers completely inaccessible.
Moving on – to start with our goal was to get into the mountains for an adventure and while that may seems like a rather simple idea it turned out that it wasn’t all the easy. There isn’t a whole lot online about the mountains except general overviews, that’s not to mention the fact that there really isn’t an accurate road map once your off the main roads so we had to look off line. We started by talking to various car and off road clubs about places to go and people to talk with, this led us into a few different directions but it seems that when it came to getting into the meat of the mountains the best way to go was with using a BJ212 or more commonly called a Beijing Jeep.
Oddly enough we already knew a few folks with these sitting around so we reached out and started planning our adventure. One of the great things about these old military vehicles is that the people that own them usually embrace a life of adventure in rugged areas so once we were in the right community of folks our time was spent on trying to sift through all the information we were getting, we were on our way.
About a week later we met for an 8:00 am breakfast to see exactly what we had gotten ourselves into and loaded into a 7 person bench seat hard topped adventure-mobile . To start with these trucks are built for utility meaning that there are very few places they can’t go and while the inside isn’t flash the noise and comfort level was actually much better than we had expected. From our departure point in Gaoxin we got headed almost straight south for about 40 minutes before we got into the mountains and started towards Louguantai where we headed up a narrow mountain road to a recently built clubhouse that blew us away.
With the renovation not even down yet this six bedroom place has an open plan design with huge two story windows in the main room looking out into the trees and in the back there is smaller room with an actual fireplace that would be perfect for a few friends. There is a rooftop BBQ are just aching to be used and quite a few nature trails to get you up into the mountains themselves. We had no idea that there was any place like this in this part of China much less within an hour of Gaoxin! The best thing about this place is that it’s NOT a hotel or guesthouse, this place is privately owned and to go there you need to know the owner, which means that you are the ONLY people there.
Unfortunately we didn’t spend the night there as we only did a day trip, and so after a bit of a walkabout and coffee we jumped back into the jeep and headed back along the northern edge of the mountains to grab some lunch in a small village perched on the edge of a hill overlooking farmlands and orchards. We sat outside and ate a typical Shaanxi lunch of bread with egg and peppers followed by Spinach noodles and tea. It has been said that the quality of a day depends on the meals you eat making our day out wonderful. With stomachs full the post-lunch energy drain hit us in full effect so we all found comfortable spots and took a twenty minute siesta.
Waking up to the sound of the jeep starting we clambered into the back and set off down the road driving a little ways into the mountains where turned onto a dirt track and really tested the worth of our little jeep. The driver knew what he was doing so and after a few bone jarring minutes we found ourselves face to face with an old pagoda (as if there was such a thing as a new pagoda) perched on the top of a hill. While the Qinling Mountains are dotted with pagodas, actually coming up to one and being the only people there is an amazing experience.
After taking photos of every possible angle with both camera and phone we once again boarded the adventure express once again and bumped our was down the mountain to our last spot of the day. We drove for about 45 minutes and started to climb yet again up a hill (hey we’re in the Qinling Mountains everything is either up or down hill) from the distance we could see a golden roofed building but couldn’t make out what it was. As we drove through cherry blossoms and flowered fields the building came more into view but for the life of us we couldn’t figure out what it was. Once we finally crested the top of the hill we realized it was a huge church, in the middle of nowhere. The doors were locked shut and the place had the look of a 1980’s government building with a gold roof but the juxtaposition of a Church in the countryside was what made this place such an interesting stop. We didn’t stay long as the day was getting on and we still had to make our way back to Xi’an.
On the way back to town our drive/guide made a final stop in Hu Xian at a Baijiu Brewery. Baijiu – the bane of Chinese Weddings and fruity smelling cousin to Tequila we were not really all that excited when The Green Machine (as we started calling the jeep) pulled to a stop at the entrance. Since we were looking for adventure and our guide hadn’t let us down even once all day we decided to give it a try and reluctantly went inside.
Upon entering they give you a free shot of Baijiu – which would be great if we were at an ice cream factory but not so wonderful here. To be honest the Baijiu was actually much smoother than the Ganbei glasses at weddings and it gave us all a little jolt of energy after a long day of traveling. The place was open and once again we found ourselves the only folks around as we walked the grain threshing floor, the distillery and a few other assorted out buildings. They even have a tea/baijiu house which is really done up nicely though a bit far from Xi’an for a pop-in. All in all a quick 30 minute stop was actually worth having to do a shot as you walk in the door.
The after effect of a baijiu shot is sleepiness meaning that from the brewery to Gaoxin was a quiet ride with the subtle sounds of snoring occasionally breaking over the sound of the engine. About 6:00pm we were dropped off in Gaoxin near the Train Bar so we have a final coffee to wake up for the trek home and exchange photos. What started out as a plan to look for adventure in the Qinling Mountains had come to fruition, we had seen remarkable places, learned new things and eaten the perfect food for the setting, as a very wise man once said, “I love it when a plan comes together.”
After we went on our day trip we got to talking with the driver/guide and though he isn’t an actual tour operator he would be more than happy to take people out and about either on the same route we took or to some of the other places that he knows that we didn’t get a chance to see – and all of this in his BJ212. This got us so interested that Xianease would like to kick this off with a group day trip.
We can only take 10 folks so the first people to contact us at Adventure@xianease.com
will get the seats. We will be looking at doing our trip at the end of April or beginning of May depending on when the weather warms and everything goes from grey to green. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in send us off an email and hopefully you’ll be one of the lucky 10!
One Rule – You can only write in for yourself, don’t write and say “I’ll take all 10 places” because that email will mysteriously end up in our spam folder.