A Day Spent Hitchhiking to Waterfalls in Hainan

I haven’t produced anything on this site for a while and I definitely need to write a recap of the past year (you can find a taster here), but those of you who follow me on Facebook and Instagram already know that in March I have moved to Sanya, which is the southernmost city in China, located on Hainan island.

I’ve been here for about a month and a half, and I must admit that so far I haven’t done much in terms of exploring. From almost everywhere in Sanya and in particular from my apartment, I’ve been looking at amazing mountains covered in tropical vegetation, yet until last Monday I hadn’t gone on a hike. It was about time.

I’ve made a new friend at the gym, a cool American called Joshua, who had a list of some really nice waterfalls to check out.

We picked one and met at 7am to drive our bikes to Sanya’s bus station. The bus took a little over an hour to get us to the town of Lingshui, from which we were supposed to take another bus to the National Park in which the falls are located.

We found out the next bus would mean we had to wait almost two hours, so we decided to get a taxi instead. Our driver, a friendly Chinese woman, was trying to ask us something about our destination in Chinese. Neither of us understood her so we just reiterated we wanted to go to the National Park. She nodded, and dropped us off a while later.

Entrance to Diao Luo National Park

At the entrance, we were met by two security guards, who patiently explained to us that foreigners weren’t allowed in the Park without a permit from the local authorities. We were slightly bummed, but asked them what we could do around. They mentioned “Dali pu bu” which was something the driver also said when she was trying to ask us about our destination. We thought it was time to check what that meant through a translating app and found out “pu bu” is the Chinese for “waterfall”. We could have saved time if we translated what our driver was trying to ask us earlier on, she would have taken us to the right place !

But hey ho, these things happen. The guards told us we could take a bus down the road, so we headed towards the bus stop but then we couldn’t find a timetable. We thought we could be waiting ages for a bus, and the locals around us (who all seemed very intrigued to see two foreigners) appeared to be saying we could walk to the falls.

So we started walking, but after a little while we were unsure if we were heading in the right direction. We stopped a local worker on a motorbike who told us we were going the right way, however we had over 10 kilometers to go. He kindly offered to take us closer, so he took off the shovel that was attached to his bike and the both of us hopped on, with Joshua holding the shovel whilst we were on the road. It was a fun ride !

Three men, a motorcycle and a shovel.

He left us at a crossroads were a bus to the falls was supposed to stop every now and then. Again we didn’t know how long we’d have to wait for the bus. The signs indicated there was a lake 6 kilometers away and the falls were 9 kilometers away in the same direction. We thought we’d start walking, try to hitchhike or stop the bus if it drove by, and failing that we’d just reach the lake on foot then come back.

After only a few minutes, a fancy 4×4 approached, we extended our thumbs and, to our surprise, it stopped. Two Chinese guys were inside, and told us they were going to drive by the falls so they could take us. We couldn’t believe our luck !

Fancy 4×4

We stopped by the lake for a few minutes to take some photos, and with our limited Chinese vocabulary we managed to make some small talk with our new friends, which was much easier without the roaring of the truck’s engine.

The lake.

We hopped back on the 4×4, and a few minutes later they dropped us off near the start of the path to the waterfalls.

Our new Chinese friends.

It didn’t even take us 10 minutes, to reach them ! I had been expecting something much more arduous. The only difficult part had been to reach the path through different buses or lifts…

Nonetheless, the waterfalls and the area around them were really picturesque, and there was no one but us around, which was great ! We chilled there for a couple of hours and then decided to make our way back.

DaLi waterfalls

The view from atop the waterfalls.

We started making our way on foot, hoping we’d get lucky again with hitchhiking. And we did ! Within just a few minutes, a car drove by and stopped to pick us up. The guy was going to Lingshui too, which was perfect ! Again we made small talk despite our poor Chinese, and kindly refused when he offered us some snacks which I believe were duck tongues.

He dropped us off in Lingshui, where we booked our bus tickets back to Sanya and grabbed some food in a nearby restaurant. Again we attracted much curiosity from the locals !

Having some food in Lingshui

After a much needed nap in the bus, we made it back to Sanya, tired but pleased with a rather eventful day hitchhiking random vehicles and chilling at a beautiful natural spot.

I had never hitchhiked before, and this little adventure made me want to try doing a bigger trip through hitchhiking one day. Do you have any funny/crazy hitchhiking experiences to share ? Let me know in the comments !


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Tom Davidson

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