Trekking in Henan Province, China
When most people think about China, the big attractions such as Beijing (Great Wall, Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City), Xian (Terracotta Warriors) and Shanghai are usually first to come to mind. However, China is a huge place with a plethora of diverse and amazing places to visit. If you love getting off the beaten track and challenging yourself to some real cultural experiences there are countless numbers of places which are out there to be discovered.
I first moved to China in 2005, and chose the city of Zhengzhou, Henan to live and work. Henan is a centrally located province and one of the most populous in China. The famous Yellow River runs through it, so the area often referred to as the ‘Cradle of Chinese Civilization’.
After living and working in the concrete jungle of Zhengzhou for a few months, I managed to find a trekking club, who organised camping trips to the countryside on the weekends and holidays. Finding this club was definitely a game changer for me and enabled me to experience Chinese culture on a whole new level.
Henan province is extremely mountainous, and despite many cities relying on heavy industry, you can easily escape to the rural areas, which are steeped in dramatic scenery and ancient history.
Some of my most memorable personal moments include the challenge of communication with my trekking colleagues, none of whom spoke any English (this was to be a big factor in my Chinese level improving), the generous nature of the Chinese, who would constantly be sharing fruits and snacks with each other during the expedition, and climbing out of my tent in the mornings to the crisp mountain air and noodles for breakfast, boiled on gas camp stoves.
Trekking through tall, misty mountains and coming across old stone bridges and remote villages was an awe inspiring experience for me, and getting my lungs full of fresh air was just the tonic from the bustling industrial city of Zhengzhou. Also, just spending time with my Chinese trekking club was an experience in itself, as I learned so much about language and culture when travelling and spending time as a Chinese person would.
As a born and raised Queenslander, another big difference was the changing seasons. Seeing the beautiful hues of red, yellow and orange of Autumn on the mountainside while following old paths for me was a highlight, as was the snow in winter.
I guess the point of this article is to highlight that no matter where you go and what you do, you can always go deeper. Speak to locals, find the people who share similar passions within that country, and you will have experiences and find places which otherwise, you may never have known existed. Not to mention, you will make new friends, connect with people and share cultural experiences beyond that which you may have ever previously expected.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mitchell Callander is a freelance Chinese marketing consultant specializing in the Asian markets, specifically China, Japan, Korea and India. He speaks fluent mandarin, conversational Japanese and is developing an online social media based channel completely in mandarin, called Strange Rice TV.