Wild panda trekking in the Sichuan countryside

Culture | by James Weir
Posted: August 9th, 2012 | Updated: August 10th, 2012 | Comments
Pandas Guangzhou asian games 2010 From 16 August 2012 until 23 August 2012, Ctrip will be offering a Duiangyan Irrigation System and other Chengdu attractions. Two of the images most intimately associated with westerner's perceptions of China—cuddly, giggling pandas gnawing on bamboo and rolling around playfully in the forest and the landscapes of neon, rebar, skyscrapers and traffic jams that characterize the new, urban China—stand in stark opposition to one another. Of course, the problems facing the world panda population aren't limited to the ever increasing presence of humans in their habitat (their infamously low libido and equally low birth rate, in the wild and in captivity, comes to mind), but it's impossible not to see the rise of industrial China, and the subsequent threat it has posed to the survival of the panda population, as one part in an equation that hasn't been to kind to our cuddly, black and white bear pals. More after the jump.... But progress is being made! Some say the panda population is on the rebound in the wild, with somewhere around 1,500 of the little buggers lazing around the Chinese countryside, mostly in Sichuan, though there are some in Gansu and Shaanxi as well. And around the country, pandas in captivity are copulating, birthing and living the good life of bamboo-induced food comas and the loving affection of millions of visitors. Proof of this can be seen at the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base in Chengdu. I've been to the panda base in Chengdu, and I enjoyed myself thoroughly. (Here's a tip: go with a small child who loves pandas. Throughout the day, said child will mutter and giggle in complete amazement at what their tiny eyeballs are witnessing. Satisfaction guaranteed.) But sometimes seeing animals in pens, however plush—for an animal that's in captivity, these pandas have got it made—just doesn't cut the mustard. You gotta get out there. Track them down (for non-violent gawking purposes, in the case of pandas). Follow their scent. Read their footprints. Examine their scat. You know the deal. Stuff you usually only see on the teevee. Lucky for you, Chengdu, where you first head out to the Panda Research Base and ensure that you'll see some pandas on your trip even if your excursion in the wild doesn't bear any panda-sighting-fruit. After the base, it's off to Dujiangyan for a chance to gaze out at one of China's most underrated ancient undertakings. Like the Great Wall and the Grand Canal, the Dujiangyan Irrigation System plays an important role in the history of China. The irrigation system was put in place in 256 BC (!), and remains functional and sound over 2,000 years later; it even survived the 2008 Sichuan earthquake without any significant damage. Before the system was in place, the people living along the banks of the Min River were in constant danger of flooding, and the Chengdu Basin was dry and largely useless for farming. The system diverts spring overflow onto the basin, preventing the river from flooding over its banks and providing the basin with the water necessary for fruitful farming. Unlike a dam, this system meant that the river was still an entirely functioning waterway for vessels of all kinds.

After Dujiangyan, the Wild Panda Trek continues on, with the Longxi-Hongkou Nature Reserve on the horizon. After a drive to the Hongdu Riverside Hotspring Hotel and a good nights rest, the trek begins in earnest the following morning. Your guide will lead you on a five hour hike through the forest, using his or her expert knowledge of the area to (hopefully!) track one down. After the hike, you'll set up camp near a river and take in the stars while you wait for a panda to (again, hopefully!) meander down to the river to get some water. The forest is thick, pristine and beautiful, so even if you aren't lucky enough to glimpse one of the elusive and camera-shy pandas, you'll see plenty of natural wildlife and fauna. After a good night's rest and some fresh, mountain air, it's time for another hike around the reserve, eventually ending up back at the Hongdu Riverside Hotspring Hotel. The next morning, a driver will take you back to Chengdu and if you're lucky, you'll have great stories to tell all your friends about that time you saw a panda in the wild.

Book your Wild Panda Trek today!

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