After at light lunch at the first camp, we set back towards the second camp where we will spend the night. The sun comes out, and makes the mountain look magnificent:
In open areas, we start noticing more and more bamboo species, some compact and shrubby, others much larger and spreading.
Trees include large Magnolia, red-petioled Daphniphyllum and oaks (acorn on the left side). Because this is an area of high endemism, there are many small plant genera which can only be found in North Vietnam/South China mountains. A good example is Rehderodendron, a genus with only five species known for its sausage-shaped seed pods:
En route, we are greeted by rather lovely goats:
Muddy paths are home to many earthworms, but this giant blue one is certainly the most striking:
In a narrow rocky corridor, I find these pretty Utricularia - believe it or not, this is actually a carnivorous plant which catches small invertebrates in traps on its leaves and stems. The whole plant is probably 2-3 cm tall.
The path becomes a little more challenging, with ladders, wet boulders and Rhododendron trunks taking the most twisted shapes:
It’s amazing how quickly the weather can change in this area. In less than 20 min, the sunny view becomes thick fog, and we end up walking in the clouds (a strange experience!):
In a slightly flatter area, we discover Zanthoxylum laetum, a distant relative of citrus fruits with impressive spines on the leaf veins. The name of the genus might not seem familiar, but the berries of several species are actually used to make a well-known spice, Sichuan pepper (which has nothing in common botanically with black pepper!).
In the bottom left hand corner of the picture you can also see Rubus lineatus with its delicate leaf pattern.
After an hour or so, the sun is back and we can enjoy yet another stunning view over the mountains, but this time a bit higher:
We continue our ascent among bamboos and rhododendrons. Another shrubby plant popular in temperate horticulture is Hydrangea. They seem to be increasingly present around 2500-2700m; I particularly like this one with creamy green flowers:
As we climb one last hill, I spot this yet unnamed Clematis with cool purple stems and leaf undersides, and a Viburnum with bright red berries:
We reach the overnight camp just before sunset, and discover our room with a view. Most of the evening is spent around a hearty dinner with Vietnamese tourists, singing traditional songs and drinking garlic wine (ouch).
The next morning we will slowly be going back down the mountain (we deliberately chose not to go to the top as it’s not the most interesting part for plant diversity)…