Following on from the recent Tea Trail trek from Lijiang, Yang Xiao and I went straight back out to see if we could find an alternative route over Cangshan. And did we ever – this has gone right to the top of my “best two-day hikes” list.

We got on the trail about 10 a.m. That’s the north end of Lake Erhai behind Yang Xiao.

Above 2,800 meters, the mountainside was covered with Rhododendron rubiginosum. They had been blooming for some time and so the paths were also frequently carpeted with fallen blossom, which also drifted on the mountain stream. You can see more of the flowers from this hike here.

Over the top, our first view of Xiao Huadianba at 3,316 meters above sea level. A bit breathless, to be honest.

Soon after starting across the pastures on Xiao Huadianba, we met a goatherd named Luo Guohu. He caught up with us a little later and asked if we wanted to see a pheasant he had caught. Of course, we said. Luo said he could get 50 yuan or so for such a bird, as they were very good eating. We offered him 30 yuan to set it free and he readily agreed. You can see the moment of liberation in the video below (I had to upload this to Tudou, because the main Chinese video site, Youku, deemed that this subversive act contravened “relevant regulations”)

We had this entire place to ourselves once the herders and woodcutters went down the mountain for the night.

At sunset the mountains turned red. It really did look like this.

A few people attached to the Chinese traditional medicine enterprise on Huadianba live in these old houses.

The following morning, we hiked for about an hour through further pastures.

We met several dozen riders and mule teams coming up from Eryuan.

These villagers keep the old caravan trail in terrific condition. It’s a testing walk, but no problem if you’re fit enough.

Over the other side, we walked down into the Fengyu Valley.

This is where all of the mules came from.

Yang Xiao looks over the valley towards the town of Fengyu.

This is the cemetery at Majia. The white tower in the background, according to our Shaxi caravan leader San Ge, is a Bai custom showing where the border lies between different families’ plots.