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Human compass in the mountains

Updated: 2012-11-28 09:30
By Ma Lie in Xi'an ( China Daily)

Human compass in the mountains

Wang Gaoming (left) leads a group of hikers deep into the Qinling Mountains. Liu Cheng / for China Daily

It started out as a noble intention to help travelers who lose their way in the mountains. Wang Gaoming never expected it to turn into a fulfilling career.

"Initially, some travelers did not believe that I have better forest travel knowledge than them," says Wang from Hetaoping village in the Qinling Mountains in Taibai county, Shaanxi province.

While most of his fellow villagers had left for greener pastures, the 37-year-old stayed on. Living with his 80-year-old mother, Wang remains single because he "has been too poor to get married".

"Many villagers of my age have left for bigger cities but I like to stay to help develop the mountain tourism in our county," Wang says.

He knows the mountains inside out because he used to follow his father to pick wild herbs. Those trips also enhanced his knowledge of the various species of plants available and their characteristics.

"It was hard work to pick herbs deep in the mountains and we often stayed for more than 20 days in the forest," Wang says. "Put me anywhere in the mountains, I can easily tell the direction and find the way out."

Taibai Mountain, a part of the Qinling Mountain range, is popular among hikers from across the country because of its unique and beautiful natural scenery.

But there have been incidents of travelers losing their way. Some had died.

"In June 2002, I learned that a college student died because he couldn't find his way out of the mountains. I felt really sad that a young life ended that way and decided to do my part to help other tourists," he says.

Very quickly, Wang earned a reputation as a forest guide, earning some 50 yuan ($8) a day.

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