Black Valley
Friday, October 25th, 2002
Black Valley, Chongqing, China
All Photos © 2002 Ting and Randy Vogel

 Rooftop Greenhouse
 Row of Bonsai Trees
 Bonsai Detail
 Strange Flower
 Statue at one of Chongqing's Bridges
 Giant Ferris Wheel
 Roadside View on the Way to Black Valley
 Playing Cards
 Crossing a Small River
 Another Town along the Road
 Mural on a School?
 Rural Scenery
 View from the Mountain Road
 View from our Lunch Stop
 the Peach Garden B&B from the Front
 Hen on the Loose
 Mom in the Garden
 Cabbage Patch
 Mist on the Peaks
 Ting and the Magic Pines
 Here Comes the Mist!
 Now You See it
 Now You Don't
 Tubers & Gourds
 Giant Pile of Potatoes
 ?Sorghum? Whisks
 Rose Blossom
 Another View of Misty Mountainsides
 Can You See the Dragon in the Clouds?
 Green Tomato
 the Farmer's Life
 Out on Patrol!
 Lone Cap in the Muck
 Why Howdy!
 Spot the Grasshopper!
 Fatty Bacon and ?
 Snow Vegetable (!?!)
 Cha Su, Pork Rind and Veggies
 Stewed Squash
 Garlic and Onion Mashed Potatoes
 Sour Pork
 Mushrooms, Bitter Melon and Onion
 Fresh Vegetable Shoots
 Road Construction Grading
 Heading Down Another Hairpin
 Looking Back Up the Road
 Descending Further into the Valley
 Close to the Edge!
 Looking up the Road from the North Gate Parking Lot
 Big White ?Egret? in a Tree
 View Along the Tram-way
 Crossing the Stream
 Valley View
 A Mushroom-shaped Rock - the Stone Emperor's Umbrella
 Pop & Mom Tse Enjoying the Ride!
 Park Map at Crouching Dragon Hillock
 Wo Long Gang Place Sign
 Mom & Pop Cross the First Suspension Bridge
 First Waterfall of the Trek
 Misty View of Camel-shaped Hill
 Ting Takes to the Ropes
 Pale Purple Flower on an Overgrown Rock Face
 Rocky Crag
 Enjoying the Walk
 View Down the River
 Waterfall - distant view
 Waterfall - closeup
 Rocks and Water (No Bird)
 the Cliffs Closing In
 Little WaterFalls
 Looking Up the Cliff-face!
 View Down the Valley
 Misty Mountains
 Nice Horsetail Falls!
 Looking Upstream
 Ting & Mom with Slender Falls
 All of Us!
 Purple Orchids on the Cliff Wall
 View Down the Valley
 Turquoise Waters
 Needle Hill in the Mist
 Another Suspension Bridge
 Upstream View
 An Overgrown Cliff Face
 Randy Pauses to Grin
 Another Little Fall
 Tian Wang Feng sign
 Another View of the Needle
 Misty Mountains
 Working on the Trail
 Looking Downstream
 Dark Beer
 Ju Cui Se Placemarker
 Downstream View
 Upstream View
 Blending Contrasts
 View Down the Trail
 Into the Gorge!
 Onto the Floating Path
 Focus on the Straight and Narrow!
 Not Much Sky to See!
 Randy in the Gorge!
 Rush of Water
 Watch out for the Waterfalls!
 Dark and Jiggly
 Looking Up Out of the Gorge
 Looking Back Upstream Across the Abyss
 Looking Ahead Downstream
 the Trail Runs On and On
 Looking Back up the Gorge
 the Way Ahead
 Heading Into Another Tight Stretch
 Approaching the Crevasse
 Head-shaped Rock
 Rock Monster Grazing on the Bamboo Trees
 Spirit of the Gorge
 Nearly Dry Horsetail Fall
 More Rapids
 Another waterfall
 Hou Tiao Xia sign
 Another Set of Floating Bridges
 On Through the Narrows!
 False Color Wonderland
 A Snaky Strip of Sky
 The Way Behind
 the Gorge Opens Up Ahead
 Last look at this part of the Gorge
 Further on Down the River - the Way Not Taken
 Commencing Our Return -- Crossing over to the ?south gorge?
 Heading up to ?Dragon Pond?
 Nice Waterfall
 You Are Here!
 Lower view from the front
 Upstream Side View
 Into Another Gorge!
 Follow the Rushing Water
 Pop & Randy Enjoy the View
 A Nice Big Cascade
 Dark Pool atop the Cascade
 Lots of Stairs on this Section of the Hike
 Partially Hidden Falls
 Yet Another Waterfall
 Gondolas Ahoy!
 Trail Map
 Another Grand Cascade
 Hanging Caves
 Ting Hopscotches the Stream
 Nice Cave & Stalagmite/Stalactite
 Another Cave Amidst the Misty Mountains
 Comin' Round the Mountain
 the Way Ahead
 Randy Relaxes
 Mom & Ting Ridin' Old #099
 Start of the Ride Up
 Looking Down at Another Cave Mouth
 Randy Rides Alone!
 Pop & Mr. Shen Bring up the Rear
 Gondola #008!
 Looking Back Down the Line
 Many Steps to the Top!
 About to Clear Another Ridge
 Gondola Plaque
 Long Way Down...
 One More Big Waterfall
 Jade Pool
 Another Last Long Look at the Cascade
 Gliding Past the Hillsides
 the End of the Ride in Sight
 the Path not Taken
 ABCs (Another Bunch of Cascades)
 Closeup of the Cataract
 Ahh, Another Example of Fine Austrian Engineering!
 South Parking Lot View
 Administration Buildings
 Visitor's Toll Gate
 Psychedelic Road Sign
 Randy Wishes to Express Himself But Cannot Find the Words
 Construction Crews Work Late
 Tailgating a Military Truck
 Stuck in Traffic
 Night View from our Hotel Window #1
 Night View from our Hotel Window #2
 Night View from our Hotel Window #3

We woke up around 7 am, got dressed, and hustled downstairs to the cafe for breakfast. Plenty of choices this morning: two kinds of jook (plain or with vegetables), two kinds of watery scrambled eggs (plain, or with vegetables), assorted cooked vegetables, some sausages and sliced meats, chow mein, assorted bau, sesame beng, a table of salted or pickled vegetables, some cereals, toast, jam, coffee, tea and juice. Both the juice and the coffee were extremely watered down. We had brought our own coffee and a single-cup brew filter, so we asked the waitress for a pot of hot water to make our own steaming cups of very rich Peet's Coffee! Yum!

Our tour guide popped in to say hello and reminded us that we were to leave for the Black Valley at 8 am. We finished eating and met Mr. Shen in the lobby. It was 8:30 am when we finally started out for Black Valley.

The drive out to the countryside from Chongqing was mostly uneventful. Paying attention to traffic was a stressful experience -- what with pedestrians, ped-carts, bikes, motorcycles, tricycles, cars, vans, buses and big trucks all mixing it up freestyle. Despite the prosperity evidenced by the well-stocked shops doing business in a wide range of goods, it appears that human labor is still a considerable source of capital here, as plenty of folks were carrying large quantities of goods in sacks affixed to bamboo poles -- a chinese backpack! Day laborers stood at street corners with bamboo poles waiting for work. One old lady obviously appreciated the help as she puttered down the sidewalk followed by a porter carrying a large TV with his bamboo stick and another carrying the TV stand following a short distance behind.

There seemed to be a lot of deconstruction of old buildings and construction of new buildings going on, though only a fraction of the work sites seemed to be active -- perhaps two thirds were either abandoned or simply shut down today. Road work by small teams of one to ten men was also common. As with the porters, the majority of the work was being done by hand: chiseling stone to fill a pot hole, for example, or digging drainage ditches. One obvious consequence of the road work was to increase congestion; and, as the common practice here seemed to be to toot the horn for pretty much any reason, the noise level was commensurately high.

Outside the city, we could see that the land use was pretty intense, with practically every small flat plot (even accidental patches of soil by the roadside) being used to raise one sort of greenery or another. We also saw plenty of catch ponds being used to raise fish (they were covered over with bird netting to keep out the predators).

As we drove along, the weather alternated between a slow rain, a light drizzle, and a dreary grey fog. At best, visibility was only a mile or two, and most of the time it was less than a quarter of a mile. It definitely limited the photo opportunities!

After three hours we had left the cities and villages behind, and we were driving through the hills, climbing higher and higher on roads that were scarcely more than a lane-and-a-half wide with an occasional yellow stripe to demarcate the median line. Now and then the driver would stop and verify that we were following the right road, though more often than not, the folks he checked with didn't seem to know. Mr. Shen consulted with Mom & Pop, and it was decided that it was time for lunch, so he began looking for a likely spot. We continued our climb into the hills and soon thereafter, the driver pulled into a one-lane dirt side road marked by a small advertisement - the "Peach Garden Bed & Breakfast". A wrong turn led us to a house under construction, but a precision five-point turn by the driver kept us out of the ditch and got the van back on track. We followed the road another 500 meters uphill and around the bend and, lo-and-behold, a newly built two-story B&B rose before us.

Mr. Shen hopped out to negotiate a lunch deal with the proprietor, a "retired" executive from China Telecom. A few minutes of quick negotiation ensued and then Mr. Shen waved us out of the van. As no one was presently staying at the B&B (aside from the staff), there was a long wait while lunch was prepared. We entertained ourselves by walking about the farm and checking out the sights. The farm stretched over about 10 acres. A man-made pond sat behind the building. Flocks of chicken squawked and chased invisible bugs around the fields. We walked along the pond and around the various rows of vegetation. There were some vegetables that none of us had seen before. Mom helped a bit with choosing and preparing some of the greens, as did our driver.

The weather chilled us as it alternated between scattered showers and drippy mountain mists. It was an hour before the meal was ready, but the freshly prepared feast was well worth waiting for! The vegetables were prepared simply to bring out the incredible freshness and flavor of the greens. The meat dishes consisted mostly of cured meat such as fatty bacon and pork rinds, which tasted better than they sound. There was also fresh squash stew and mashed potatoes prepared similar to American mashed potatoes.

After the meal, Mr. Shen paid the proprietor and we continued our trek to Black Valley. Mr. Shen kept mentioning that the tourist site was so new that we would be the first foreigners to set foot on its soil. We knew he was exaggerating, but it did raise our excitement level (and as we found out later on, the site had only opened to foreign visitors earlier this year). We were closer to Black Valley than we had thought -- it only took another half an hour before we reached the entrance!

After hopping out of our van in the huge empty parking lot, we bought entrance tickets at a kiosk and then boarded an electric tram to take us deeper into the valley. The tram ran down the valley for a mile or so and then dropped us off at the beginning of the foot trail. The weather was still drippy, but the mists enveloping the mountains added an element of mystique to the scenery. Stately mountain walls reaching up to several hundred feet high flanked both side of the rushing stream, the gorge narrow enough in some places to close off our view of the sky. Walking on wooden bridges, which swayed just a couple of feet above the stream, we were humbled by the mountain's majesty.

At different points along the path, we would run into workers carrying various materials for trail-building. The most striking point about these workers is that most of the men wore western-styled suits and dress shoes! It was a bit dressed up for manual labor where some of them were crouching in the ditches working in the mud. Most of the workers were men, but there were some women carrying long steel poles that must have weighed heavily on their shoulders. Like the men, their dress was stylish and modern. Mr. Shen told us that they get paid $3 for each pole they carry along the trail. Considering that the trail was at least 5 miles long, it was very hard work for very little pay. Most workers stopped to gawk with open mouths at Randy when he passed. From the looks of wonder on their faces, it might seem that Mr. Shen's exaggeration was not too far-fetched. If we weren't the first westerners to pass by, we were probably the first tie-dyed hippie freaks (well at least Randy - Mom & Pop were not tie-dyed hippie freaks for this trip)!

Our trek through the valley took us 2-1/2 hours. Mom & Pop told us that they had been "conditioning" for this trip by walking for three hours every morning (we had warned them that we wanted to do lots of hiking on the trip). This trek was a bit more difficult because the trail went up and down, but considering that Mom was in her mid-sixties and Pop was over seventy, their stamina was simply amazing!

The end of the trail brought us to a gondola stop which took us high over the hills, saving us from countless drudging steps up the steep path to the top of the mountain. While we had been hiking, our driver had driven around the mountain from the drop-off lot to the pick-up lot, huzzah! Back in the van again, it was not long before we all dozed off (except for the driver, that is). We arrived back in Chongqing about three hours later. It was a good thing that we decided to blow off the Stone Forest today!

Back at the hotel, we went straight from the van to dinner at the hotel restaurant. Dinner was an eight-course meal. We thought the food would not stop coming. While we were certainly hungry, none of us were so ravenous as to even finish half of the dishes. After dinner, we all waddled back to our rooms for a night of well-deserved rest!