Yunnan 2004 Expedition Info for members

Info for members:

The expedition has returned. This page is left in place for information purposes. Jump to:
Expedition dates
Gear Deposit
Flight dates
Miscellaneous downloads

Expedition dates

12th July to 23rd August 2004. (These are supposed to be the dates the expedition will be in Zhongdian, not dates of travel from/to the UK.)


Chinese money is RMB (Renminbi: 'the people's money'). Very rough conversion rates are: US$1 = RMB 8; UK£1 = RMB 12.

1RMB is called a 'Yuan'. Smaller units are jiao ('mao' in spoken Chinese) and fen. 1 Yuan = 10 jiao = 100 fen.

You can buy Chinese currency using Visa or traveller's cheques when you cross the border/land in Kunming. Keep the exchange memo they give you (at least on one occasion), if you want to be able to change anything back. (Make sure you get quite a few small notes (1Y, 2Y, 5Y) when you change money - Kunming buses, for instance, don't give change, and even where change is in principle on offer, people probably won't have as much change as you'll otherwise be needing.)

Eventually, you'll need enough RMB to cover your in-country transport to and from Zhongdian (see 'travel'), living costs in Zhongdian and any souvenirs etc. There's a bank in Zhongdian that accepts both travellers' cheques (US$ or Sterling) and Visa (on the right days, at the right times, and when it feels like opening at all); it's worth having both cheques and plastic, for added flexibility. In Kunming, you can change travellers' cheques at the main branch of the Bank of China on Beijing Lu; several major banks accept Visa. I imagine you can change whatever you like at Kunming airport (but I've never tried).

Gear deposit

This expedition is affiliated to the Hong Meigui Cave Exploration Society.

A gear deposit, currently set at ukp100, is required to gain permission to cave on Hong Meigui expeditions for a twelve-month period. If you haven't been on a HMG expedition in the last twelve months, chances are you'll need to pay a gear deposit in order to come on this one.

That's the theory. In practice, the expedition will be able to pay its members' gear deposits from grant income, so we won't actually be asking you for a deposit.


(18 June) More detailed instructions from Kunming to Zhongdian are now available: click here.

You'll need to get yourself to and from Zhongdian. Past experience recommends travelling to Kunming by route (a) or (b) below, then getting an overnight sleeper bus from Kunming to Zhongdian.

  • Route (a): Fly direct to Kunming with an international carrier. (People have used Thai Air in the past; they fly to Kunming via Bangkok.)

  • Route (b): Fly to Hong Kong. From here, you can cross the border overland into mainland China, entering Shenzen. To get from Shenzhen to Kunming, you can usually buy a domestic flight ticket at short notice (same or next day flight) from one of the posh Western hotels in Shenzen, or at a travel agent in the city, or by just turning up at Shenzhen airport; or buy it on the internet before leaving the UK. (Cost around RMB800-1200 one way, internet tickets seem to be at the expensive end of this scale.) Alternatively, you could take the "scenic" overland route to Kunming, by train or bus (allow a few days for this).

    Several buses from Kunming to Zhongdian run nightly. The journey takes about 10 hours and costs about RMB140. You shouldn't have a problem getting a ticket if you turn up early in the day, and you might be OK even if you turn up later.

    Zhongdian does have its own airport, but I don't know anyone who's ever flown there. I think planes fly between Kunming and Zhongdian a few times a week.

    You might want to coordinate your travel dates/flights with other members of the expedition - there's a list of people's existing travel plans below.


    Mandarin is spoken throughout Yunnan. Many of the locals in the Zhongdian area are bilingual in Mandarin and Tibetan.

    Very few people speak English, but you can get by across the language barrier with a bit of patience and ingenuity.

    If you do feel like making the effort, however, a bit of basic Mandarin goes a long way. You can learn the spoken language without learning the Chinese script, as there is a standard romanised spelling system (pinyin). One home-study course I've found useful is 'Teach Yourself Chinese', available from good bookshops - it comes with a book and tape. The tape is pretty much essential, unless you have a native speaker helping you (the pronunciation ain't quite what it looks like).

    Here are a rudimentary Mandarin pronunciation guide and caver's phrase sheet.


    (from Si Flower)


    Note: you need to have completed your vaccination schedules at least 2-4 weeks in advance of departure, so start planning now.

    Tetanus: Booster required every 10 years. If you have a really tetanus prone wound you will need another jab if you haven^t had one in the last 5 years.

    Diphtheria: Booster required inn the last 10 years.

    Polio: Booster doses aren't necessary if you're up to date (i.e. you had a jab just before leaving secondary school)

    Typhoid Booster required every 3 years

    Rabies - booster required every 2-3 years, after an initial course of 3 injections over 28 days.

    Yellow fever: A certificate of vaccination is required only if you're coming from an endemic area.

    Hepatitis A - Boosters at 6-12 months after the initial injection, then every 10 years after.

    Hepatitis B - Initially I thought you would only need this if you had planned on shagging around or having major trauma followed by a blood transfusion. But then I discovered that China has one of the world's highest prevalence rates of Hep B and has one of the fastest growing rates of HIV infection, and that blood transfusions have responsible for a significant proportion of this. The Chinese government announced last year that it had spent nearly 300 million dollars upgrading the testing for hepB/C in blood donors in central and western China, but because the Chinese health care system is very decentralized the standards may still vary widely between regions. I would therefore go for this one, even though it may be costly: You can get an accelerated course of 3 injections which takes 2 (or if desperate, one) month to complete.

    Hep A and Hep B are available in a combined vaccine course (Twinrix), providing immunity to both in 3 injections over 3 weeks.


    Around 15% of European whites are rhesus negative. People who are rhesus negative must only receive rhesus negative blood. The problem in China is that over 99% of the Chinese population is Rhesus positive, meaning that the availability of rhesus negative blood is probably limited. That means you need to make a decision whether or not to find out your blood type, and if it turns out you are rhesus negative whether or not you want to take the risk of remaining on the expedition.

    If you do find out your blood type, please could you e-mail the results to me [Si].


    Both of these are mosquito-borne infections potentially affecting travelers to China.

    The WHO advice on malaria is that malignant p.falciparum (i.e. cerebral) malaria is a risk in prolonged stay in in rural Yunnan, but only in villages below 1500m asl. Zhongdian is at 3200m so there is minimal risk. Because it is carried in the same vector, this is probably also true of villages below 1500m asl. Zhongdian is at 3200m so there is minimal risk. Because it is carried in the same vector, this is probably also true of Japanese encephalitis. If you plan on visiting other areas then you need to visit the WHO site (

    Flight dates

    This is to help those who want to travel with other expedition members to coordinate their plans. If you have travel plans (firm or tentative) to add to this list, email them to me [Hil].
    Arrive Hong Kong Arrive Kunming Depart Kunming Depart Hong Kong Comments
    Andy Atkinson 17-Jul 1905 (?) 13-Aug 0845 (?)
    Rich Bayfield 11-Jul? 9-Aug?
    Helen Blyth ?
    Henry Clarke ~19-Jul? ~23-Aug?
    Duncan Collis Already in China
    Si Flower 04-Aug 2030 CX108 5-Jul? 1-Aug? 2-Aug 1500
    Simon Froude 20-Jul 1905 24-Aug 0845
    Rob Garrett Already in China
    Rich Gerrish 12-Jul 13-Aug Lives in Hong Kong
    Hilary Greaves 4-Jul 1810 5-Jul? 26-Aug 1240
    Josep Guarro ?
    Tim Guilford ?
    Chris Jewell
    Martin Hicks 10-Jul 26-Aug
    Martin Laverty 10-Jul 1905 3-Aug 0825 Flying with Lenik Saymo
    Martell Linsdell 05-Aug 1905 24-Aug 0845
    Fleur Loveridge 11-Jul 1700 12-Aug 1815 Flying out with Pete Talling
    Gavin Lowe 10-Jul 15-Aug
    Lou Maurice ?
    Lenik amak Saymo 10-Jul 1905 3-Aug 0825 Flying with Martin Laverty
    Paul Swire ?
    Pete Talling 11-Jul 1700 19 Aug? Flying out with Fleur Loveridge

    Miscellaneous downloads

  • Joining instructions - how to get your ass from Kunming airport to base camp in Zhongdian. (.pdf: 92 kB)
  • Pronunciation guide - notes on Pinyin and tones. (.pdf: 59 kB)
  • Yunnan 2004 phrase sheet - English, Pinyin and script for 'I say, your yak appears to have a perianal haematoma' and other essential classics. (.pdf: 120 kB)
  • Cave record sheet: for recording essential info about new and further-explored caves - one sheet per cave. (.pdf: 16 kB)
  • Plot of the locations of logged caves and camps in the Zhongdian area (.jpg: 133 kB)
  • GPS data that we have from previous expeditions in Yunnan - cave and camp locations, etc. (Martin says: "[This] works when imported to a Windows program called GPSU ( and then into my green eTrex.") (.txt: 6 kB)