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Early May, 2013: In the mountains of old Anhui province, my friends, brother and I navigated the ancient merchant trail used for transporting goods between Anhui Province to Zhejiang Province.

Known as the Hui Hang Caravan Trail, or Huihang Gu Dao (徽杭古道) to Chinese people, the trail is now a travel destination complete with rustic lodging along the path. Owing to hiking during the week, the trial was pleasantly mostly empty, save for old women selling nuts and water. Here’s how the adventure went.

Jixi City

The city of Jixi (绩溪) is located in Southern Anhui province, a four hour’s drive west of Shanghai off of the G56 freeway. It is here, nestled in the valley of the river that runs through Jixi that quality accommodation may be found.

After spending China’s labor day holiday in Nanjing, the capital of China during the days of Chiang Kai-Shek, we rented a car for 150RMB per day and drove south through the mountains of Anhui, to Jixi, stopping only once for a country-style meal of mushrooms and asparagus lettuce.

We arrived around ten at night, and after scoping out all the hotels in a half a kilometer radius (about five), we settled on one for 30 RMB per night.

Fu Ling Village

Fu Ling village, also known as Fu Ling Zhen (伏岭镇) is located at the foot of the Qingliang Peak national reserve, and can be reached by a twenty-minute taxi ride, as well as by public bus (I am not sure on the bus details, but I’ve read buses go to these small villages at the foot of the mountains).

Before starting out on the trail we bought some apples, oranges, and chocolate at a local convenience store.

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Park Entrance

After hiking for only thirty minutes we arrived at the Hui Hang Caravan Trail park entrance and ticket gate. It was 80 RMB per person to buy a ticket and go in, though we found that no one checked our tickets even once—this was likely due to the fact that it was a weekday.

Swimming Hole

After passing through the ticket entrance, the trail went up through a ravine. The water below was very clear and definitely worth a dip.

Lunch at the Jiangnan Inn

After hiking for some time we found a small restaurant to eat at. Thankfully we were tired and hungry enough by this point therefore the food tasted great. We again had asparagus lettuce and mushrooms.

Jiangnan Inn to Lan Tian Ao

The hike from the inn to Lan Tian Ao—which translates roughly as Sunken Blue Sky, took two to three hours and was the longest part of the hike. The western part was mostly flat, but the trail rose steeply towards the east end.

Around the site known as Lan Tian Ao, many guesthouses can be found. We paid about 80 RMB for a bed, dinner, and breakfast.

Lan Tian Ao

Upon arrival at Lan Tian Ao, hill people selling their wares greeted us. Their pecans and walnuts were delicious and a fair price so we bought some.

The name Lan Tian Ao comes from the shape that the mountains and sky make from the vantage point of Lan Tian Ao. Looking east, across the Anhui-Zhejiang border, the horizon with the mountains makes a shape like the character Ao (凹). See picture below.

The Return Journey

After spending the night at one of several guesthouses at the top of the mountain, we began our journey home at 9 am. We were the only group staying at our guesthouse that night, but a guesthouse next to us was hosting a group of 30 college students.

By 1 pm we had descended out of the mountains, while also stopping for another dip in a mountain-water pool. We ate lunch back in Jixi and were on the road back to Nanjing by 3 or 4 pm.

After 300 km of driving through the mountains of Anhui, five hours later, we made it back to Nanjing so that my friends could catch their night trains back to Beijing and Jiangxi province respectively.

How to Get to Hui Hang Caravan Trail

The Hui Hang Caravan Trail can be entered from either the east or the west. If you are coming from the west as we did, first make for the city of Jixi which can be reached by train or bus from cities such as Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Nanjing, and then take a taxi or a bus to Fu Ling village.

From here you can hike to the entrance of the trail. There should be characters like this: “古道” scrawled on the walls of the village with red arrows pointing the way.

Click the markers in the map below for the name of each location.


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If you have any questions about Hui Hang Caravan Trail or travel in China, leave them in the comment section below and we will reply!


live-and-work-in-china-nick-pic-small AUTHOR: NICK LENCZEWSKI
Nick Lenczewski (Len-chess-key) writes books and makes movies to help people discover the incredible life that living and traveling in China brings. He believes that listening to music, playing cards and drinking tea with friends is one of the best things in life. Nick is fluent in Mandarin.

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17 comments… add one
  • Allen September 2, 2013, 2:17 am

    Such a nice experience and you are good at writing

    Reply
    • admin September 2, 2013, 1:23 pm

      Thanks buddy!

      Reply
  • annie September 5, 2013, 9:06 pm

    I’m interested in hiking this trail, starting from the Zhejiang side. From my research, most people stay at a guesthouse in Xia Xue Tang. Do all the guesthouses have squat toilets? I’m not particularly prissy, but i like to relax during my bowel movements… Can you recommend one of the guesthouses you stayed at?

    Reply
    • Nick Lenczewski September 6, 2013, 2:35 pm

      Hey Annie,
      That is cool to hear you are thinking about a trip here. When we went we saw places all along the trail at Xiao Yao Xiang, Xia Xue Tang, and Lan Tian Ao. We did not inquire too much as to what amenities each accommodation had, but I would guess most places have squatter toilets and not Western.
      The place we stayed at in Lan Tian Ao was very simple with a big dining room and a dozen rooms with several beds in each room. I don’t remember the name but it was very simple. They cooked us breakfast, but it wasn’t great in my opinion. Mostly shady-looking vegetables.
      If you go on the weekend you might want to try and call ahead to book a room wherever you end up staying because there could be a lot of people. This page has some phone numbers and is what I used to prepare for my trip, but it is also all in Chinese: http://zhidao.baidu.com/link?url=5B6Wu6X7ZqHWzGBX6dQyKjhKX-NT7_ro_waUAWaJGbpE7K75PttAFv0nr2obn15hc5cRvbX1OaPpLzE11TdR2_.

      Hope that helps a little, sorry I don’t know specific names of places to stay.

      -Nick

      Reply
      • annie September 7, 2013, 9:53 pm

        Thanks for your response, Nick!

        Reply
        • Nick Lenczewski September 8, 2013, 12:08 am

          My pleasure, Annie. Hope you have a nice time!

          -Nick

          Reply
          • Gary February 9, 2014, 1:43 pm

            Hi Nick
            Thanks for posting this. I am keen to walk the Hui Hang Trail in April this year ( 2014 ) but am struggling to get much info. Your post has encouraged me to continue.
            My plan is to leave Hangzhou early Friday afternoon by bus and to try and get to Maxiaotown before dark. Do you know if that is easily achieved ? I can speak a little tourist Chinese.
            If I get to Maxiaotown is it far to the start of the trail ? Difficult to find ? A taxi ride maybe ?
            I was hoping to spend two days, one night on the trail, staying at a lodge somewhere. I think I read somewhere there is a detour you can take up the mountain. For someone without a knowledge of characters, do you reckon its easy enough to find your way along the trail, then to Fuling town at the end.
            What do you reckon my chances would be of getting a bus from Fuling town to Jixi then on to Huangshan ? Maybe I could hitchhike, I did it in Yunnan and it was real easy to get a ride !!
            If you could help me with any of this information I would be really grateful.

            Regards
            Gary from Australia

  • Nick Lenczewski February 11, 2014, 9:22 am

    Hi Gary,

    Thanks for dropping in. I did the trip from the West (Fuling Town) going East (Maxiang Town), but hopefully my advice will still be helpful.

    From looking at the map and my previous research, I think you could reach the Eastern trailhead of Hui Hang Trail from Maxiang by a 10-15 minute taxi ride. Maybe you could hitchhike, but I am not sure. On the other end it is also about 20 minutes from Fuling to the nearest city, Jixi. I don’t recall seeing any taxis but you could probably ask someone for a ride or hitchhike–I imagine people from Fuling would go to Jixi frequently (there are buses and trains there).

    There are about a dozen or so places that we passed along the trail so I think you could probably stay at one of those places. I went on a weekday so there were not many people and we didn’t need to book any accommodation. If you go on the weekend, maybe you would need to make a reservation, but I am not sure on this, I just read this off a Chinese travel site before I went.

    I would guess that it is about 20km from end to end, and regardless of how long it is, I know it could be hiked in 6 hours total if you didn’t stop to rest.

    Hope that helps!

    Nick

    Reply
    • Gary February 15, 2014, 6:23 pm

      Thanks so much Nick, thats brilliant. I reckon I’m going to have a crack at it.

      Regards
      gary

      Reply
  • Christine Carter July 12, 2015, 1:32 am

    Enjoyed your post on Hui Hang Trail adventure. A great glimpse at some of China’s interior. What fun! Thanks for posting.

    Reply
    • Nick Lenczewski July 13, 2015, 6:00 am

      Hi Christine, glad to hear you enjoyed it!
      -Nick

      Reply
  • Sherry July 13, 2015, 12:34 pm

    I am planning to go to China next year and this is one of my top goals of places to hike (because of you and Bing picture on 2015-07-11) This was a really exciting post to find.
    – Sherry from Las Vegas

    Reply
    • Nick Lenczewski July 14, 2015, 3:29 am

      Hi SHerry, glad to hear it helped you! Enjoy the hike.
      -Nick

      Reply
  • Muhammad October 2, 2016, 1:17 am

    Great article.

    Reply
    • Nick Lenczewski October 4, 2016, 8:14 am

      Thanks!

      Reply
  • Nacho April 7, 2017, 7:37 am

    Hey Nick,
    This sounds like a great place to adventure with my two grandsons (10 & 14), along with their mom and pop. I haven’t looked at your “30 pages”, but my two (I hope “simple”) questions at this time have to do with interpreter resources. This would be our first visit to this side of the world. What’s the best / easiest way to find / arrange for English / Mandarin / etc interpreters? Do we use a new one every where we stop, or can we find reliable resources in the larger cities, like where we land, then Shanghai, then find for one for up in the Trail, etc.? None of us have ANY Chinese ability.

    Reply
    • Nick Lenczewski April 10, 2017, 11:55 am

      Hi Nacho,
      Thanks for message, that’s a great question. There are lots of tour guide agencies in the bigger cities where you would be able to hire a guide/interpreter. The closest city to the Hui Hang Caravan trail is Jixi. It’s a small city so might be hard to find an interpreter there, same with on the trail. My advice would be to find someone to act as interpreter before you go to the trail. Somewhere like Shanghai or Hangzhou would have someone. You can either hire someone to be with you the entire time from when you land or hire them day by day when needed. -Nick

      Reply

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