Driving up the winding roads, into the hills outside of Hangzhou, the bamboo slowly starts to get thicker and the air fresher. As the coach meanders past tea plantations and lakes that dot the landscape, big city worries start to disappear and the scents of the countryside begin to waft. Arriving at the destination at the foothills of Moganshan, students pile off the coach and take in their first sights of our home for the next few days.
With a way of life wholly different from the regular day-to-day of the big city, this mountainous getaway has served as inspiration and refuge for luminaries from poets to political scions over the years, road weary and looking to recharge in the great outdoors. In a similar vein, our goal over the course of a week in Moganshan is for our students to forget about their quotidian concerns and to engage into the countryside life.
The most important product in Moganshan is bamboo, so we explore all of the ways this iconic plant plays a part in local life, from the kitchen to the woodshop. Students make their own bamboo baskets, the same ones that locals use to carry just about everything around the village, before being tasked with a bamboo weaving relay race to test their handiwork. We also head out to one of the local lakes to learn how to make bamboo rafts, learning the crucial knots necessary to lash the bamboo together, before racing our crafts on the water.
The essential way to become one with the bamboo is to spend lots of quality time exploring the forest, as we do on a full day hike up and down the slopes of Moganshan. Always a good challenge, the opportunity to be completely ensconced in the wilderness is a rare one for most of our students and we take the opportunity for some facilitated moments of in-depth reflection when it’s hardest to distinguish the forest from the trees.
After helping out around the farm and learning about local produce, no trip to Moganshan is complete without a taste of the freshest bamboo shoots. Not just the foodies, but even the pickiest eaters became new bamboo converts! The opportunities to seek new challenges and push beyond comfort zones abound in Moganshan. It is fast becoming one of our favorite new destinations for school groups looking to get out into nature and embrace its wonders.