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Tranquil & Unearthly Huangshan

Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,

For friends and family and all those who read my blog that I don’t know which includes all of those who skip reading and go directly to the photos at the bottom of the page, this is THE blog I would like you to read. Today I climbed Huangshan and the climb down scared the pants off me for most of it. This is one of those blogs where a dream is put into words so grab a beer or a coffee and take the time to read it and then view the photos as without reading it the photos really have no meaning.

For some it’s Mount Everest (God only knows why as it’s so cold there!) For me it has always Mount Huang (Huangshan) in Anhui Province. Today I finally brought forth that dream and made it reality.

I also realised that I need to be on a leash or maybe that I need a Nanny. Yes, I like the idea of having a Nanny and I think I’ll look into that one. Serious by the time I arrived home I was barely able to walk. I have no beer to relax with and I simply can’t be bothered going down stairs to get a few coldies to have while I write this.

My feet and legs are too sore. Today I definitely got much more than I bargained for. That’s saying something from some who walks and rides so much.

Yellow Mountain (also named Huangshan) today, just as it has throughout history lays unclaimed by any religious movement and now holds the number one position as THE mountain to climb here in China. It is also the mountain most westerners know 'Scenic’ China by. I like most westerners, for most of my life have known China as a place of mythical peaks surrounded by seas of clouds with strangely shaped pine trees growing randomly upon them. Yes, take a look at the walls in your own, your friends or families homes and surely some of them will have upon them scrolls, calendars etc with images of the above.

Some may even have a tiger or two included. Ladies and gentlemen, Welcome to Huangshan!

Huangshan, in one mountain brings together all the strong points other mountains have: grand, strange, baffling, arduous, steep, flourishing, quiet and spacious and is popular with tourists because its peaks are frequently shrouded in mist, so the mountains appear to float on clouds. The sunrises over them and the views from the peaks are some of the best in the country. Out of the many peaks seventy seven of them are well over one thousand meters above sea level. The legendary pines, oddly-shaped rocks, phantasmagoric sea of clouds, hot springs and winter snows have given Yellow Mountain its world famous reputation of having unique views.

The mountains were formed in the Mesozoic, about one hundred million years ago, when an ancient sea disappeared due to uplift. Later, in the Quaternary Period, the landscape was shaped by the influence of glaciers. The mountaintops often offer views of the clouds from above, known as the Sea of Clouds or "Huangshan Sea" because of the clouds' resemblance to an ocean, and many vistas are known by names such as "North Sea" or "South Sea."

One writer remarked on the view of the clouds from Huangshan as follows:

To enjoy the magnificence of a mountain, you have to look upwards in most cases. To enjoy Mount Huangshan, however, you've got to look downward.

Although a very difficult climb Huangshan really is a must on any visit to China. There are steps up to the peaks and then many more as you move from one peak to the next. There are two main routes up, the western steps (around fifteen kilometers) and the eastern steps. The western steps are much harder and most say it takes between four to six hours to reach the most scenic spots. The Yuping cable car will take you half way, to the Jade Screen Peak. The eastern steps are much quicker and take between two and three hours to reach the summit or you can catch the new speedy Yungu cable car up.

When I went to bed last night I was so excited that I barely slept a wink so I was wide awake by half past five and was on board the six thirty bus that left from the train station car park (cost and time details below). After purchasing my entry ticket along with my cable car ticket I boarded the new cable car up the east side of the mountain. I shared my journey up with seven South Koreans who were on a tour in China and after I told one of them where I had been in South Korea I found out the rest could speak English very well. The ride up was totally amazing and honestly I don’t know what scared me the most, when we couldn’t see anything at all or when the cloud moved enough to show us what was below and to the sides of us.

I hate cable cars and they scare the hell out of me because they just hang there. The new ones like today’s are even worse as they wiz up the mountain much too fast for me.

Even though I hate them, like planes they save you half a day and allow you that time to play. For some reason (even though I know they are supposed to make the noise) I always grab hold of something when they wiz over the towers and go bumpity bumpity bump. I really hate that! Surely they could make it so they don’t make that horrible noise. It seems to make everyone grab hold of what ever they can even those who don’t realise they are doing so. If you look at the photos below you will see that we were covered by such an intense and thick fog that we couldn’t even see the cable car in front or behind us.

I spent my first four hours racing around like an over excited child who has had too much candy. I though had had two cans of Red Bull!

I raced from peak to peak and back to the last peak and across to the one before that etc. Each time I returned everything was different as there was either more cloud or much less which left me breathless each time. While I was racing around the place I came across a guy from Europe and that’s what we will call him, European Guy. As we were both so busy taking photos of the amazing world we found ourselves in and then nearly dying of exhaustion, we actually never got down to the normal travel chit chat.

After meeting on this that and the other peak and racing half way down the mountain to visit different things and back up again we decided to head down the mountain via the western steps. We were both tired and as the Western Steps are around fifteen kilometers long (the Eastern Steps are seven) we were happy with another few hours heading downwards. Somewhere along the way we either somehow took a wrong turn or were transported by aliens but we then found ourselves on what is known as the Grand Canyon.

<u>The Grand Canyon</u>

Maybe this is part of the Western Steps but I don’t think it is. But then again how the hell would I know.

Anyhow, it can not be found on either the English or Chinese map and it scared the pants off most of the people on it including myself. There were signs saying that it was newly built and opened but they had no dates so either this year or last year. Most of the walk, which goes on for many kilometers is on a concrete ledge that has somehow been attached to a sheer cliff face that begins at around one thousand five hundred meters high. It then takes you down thousands of steps and through tunnels that take you to the next cliff face and all you have beside you, is of course the cliff face and on the other side (just a few feet) is the thing that is meant to stop you from falling. This is a single hand rail that has so many giant gaps everywhere that if you slipped or tripped you’d pretty much be a GONE!

I can across so many people that were doing the entire walk with their back against the wall.

I for one was walking on that side and if I came across another &#8216;Wall Walker’ I did what most people would do, I out stared them and made them take a small step across the ledge to use the hand rail. If I had of known what the Grand Canyon was I doubt I would have gone that way but the views if offered could doubtfully be offered anywhere else. It is a step up from the planks of wood and chain that Hua Shan once offered but the photos (found below) of the Canyon Walk do it no justice as the clouds don’t allow for the nerve racking views one thousand meters below your very feet and the hand rail beside you.

I shudder even now when I think about it…..Yikes!

I think the fact that you are actually on a platform as wide small town footpath gives you the confidence to continue but each time I got a look at where I had been from the next level down and saw that it was all resting on thick metal poles made me think of how in the world they got them there in the first place and how many workers died making this crazy cliff path available to the innocent public and more than once I felt myself quickly grabbing the hand rail, stop walking and stare at the cliff face to stop myself from having an anxiety attack. I have never had one but after today I can see why people do have them.

I guess it is safe unless a part of it comes away from the wall. But I honestly would have felt much safer if I also had a chain to hold onto on the cliff side.

All went well and none of the fifteen or so of us that were sharing the cliff wall together fell off but what did happen is that when we were kind of nearly at the bottom, or where we could actually catch glimpses of it sometimes when the mist blew away, we came to the track that was supposed to take us the rest of the way BUT it was closed with a sign telling us we had to take the track just above it.

This was fine until it continued to lead us back up the cliffs towards the top. It then continued going up and going up and going up.

With us were several families who had small children (yes only in China would you take your kids on a freakin cliff ledge walk) and there was also several aged couples (that no word of a lie would have to have been over sixty) and as we continued our journey things became not so good for everyone. The kids could barely move and the elderly needed to rest after only several steps. Remember that all of us had spent many hours at the top and from there we visited here and there and then went back to the top.

Then add to that a many kilometer cliff face boardwalk than went up and down and up and down.

On the way back up the mountain my legs were beginning to turn to jelly (well I have been walking many hours each day like usual but even if I hadn’t been walking so much they would have). We were all expecting to come across another pathway that was to then lead us back down the mountain. The higher we went the more out of breath we became and when you have several old people behind you beginning to wheeze you get a bit worried. Around three quarters up huge claps of thunder could be heard in the distance and none of us had rain coats or plastic bags yet we all had mobile phones, cameras and MP3 players.

Things weren’t looking good but thankfully the rain held off and only splatters of what seemed pregnant drops fell here and there.

They were huge and those that usually mean bad things are coming your way. By the time we reached the top we were all scattered in small bunches or alone. I lost European Guy, I’m not sure if he was in front or still half way taking Nanna Rests with the rest of them. I had plenty of Nanna Rests but not for as long. The pathway led to the Tianhai Hotel which is at the top of Lotus Peak. When I finally figured out where I was and had paid 10 Yuan for a bottle of coke I asked what time the Cable Car closes (4:30) and I found that I had only half an hour to get there. I then asked how long it would take me to get there and the girl said an hour and a half.

This would worry most people. But after living in China for so long I usually kind of half their estimates.

So full of anger at having paid 10 Yuan for a coke and full of caffeine and sugar I was off on legs that were once again made of steel. I arrived at the cable car at 4:25 with a huge storm brewing above me. There was lightening and thunder all around but thankfully no rain or wind. I quickly grabbed my ticket and raced into an empty cable car station.

Where were all the tourists? At this stage I was kind of thinking; I’m not getting into that thing alone in this storm.

The cable car guy I’m sure was thinking; if you don’t then you’ll be forking out a heap to sleep in a dorm and from the .looks of you, you have no soap or clean clothes. Look at yourself you sweaty Foreigner and think quick! I thought, he looked. I thought again and he continued to look. I wished I could have stayed there thinking until the cows came home (meaning more tourists to come) but the longer I waited the louder the thunder clapped above.

I gave in and jumped into the cable car alone and I’m not sure if it was due to the storm or not, but that thing was whizzing along faster than both the Hua Shan (which I visited with the Fisher Family earlier this year) and the Huang Shan (this mornings cable car ride) put together. It was making all of these strange sounds but none of them were the bumpity bumpity bump sound I hate so much. This time I actually wished for those sounds to return. It was going so fast there was no bumity sound at all and once it got over the tower it actually went faster on the new decent and made a straining sound like ZZZZZZzzzzzzzzz until it got half way and slowed a little.

By now I was almost on my knees promising to be a good boy in the future. I’ll do my hand washing every night when I travel.Let me live please!

As you know I made it down because I’m writing this blog but not far from the bottom the heavens opened up and in the pouring rain (and with a crappy umbrella that someone gave me who got onto a tourist bus near the gate way) I raced up the road to where the mere peasants have to line up and wait for their public buses (13 Yuan). The wait wasn’t so long but I did get a little worried when the bus didn’t stop at the small Tourist Bus Station I caught it at that morning.

It continued out of town to a bus station that of course didn’t have buses going to Tunxi. Thankfully though there was a minibus parked out side waiting for drowned stray cats.

Just over an hour later (another 13 Yuan) we were pulling into the small Local Bus station in the Train Station car park. I then headed across to the hotel eatery and had some of the best fried rice I’ve ever eaten and then with jelly legs I headed up stairs to do my hand washing (like a good boy) before having a rest.

It is now eleven thirty and the heavens above are still angry at some one. Couldn’t be me as I’ve done all my hand washing for this day. Only as tomorrow night may be my last night here.But don’t tell the Cable Car God that!

<u>History</u>

During the Qin Dynasty, Mount Huang was known as Yishan (Mount Yi). In 747 AD, its name was changed to Huangshan (Mount Huang) by imperial decree; the name is commonly thought to have been coined in honor of Huang Di (the Yellow Emperor), a legendary Chinese emperor and the mythological ancestor of the Han Chinese; one legend states that Mount Huang was the location from which the Yellow Emperor ascended to Heaven.

Another legend states that the Yellow Emperor cultivated moral character and refined pills of immortality in the mountains, and in so doing gave the mountains his name. The first use of this name "Mount Huang" is often attributed to Chinese poet Li Bai. Mount Huang was fairly inaccessible and little-known in ancient times, but its change of name in 747 AD seems to have brought the area more attention; from then on the area was visited frequently and many temples were built there. Mount Huang is known for its stone steps carved into the side of the mountain, of which there may be more than 60,000 throughout the area. The date at which work on the steps began is unknown, but they have been said to be over 1,500 years old.

<u>Artistic and scientific inspirations</u>

Much of Mount Huang's reputation derives from its significance in Chinese art and literature. In addition to inspiring poets such as Li Bai, Mount Huang and the scenery therein has been the frequent subject of poetry and artwork, especially Chinese ink painting and more recently, photography. Overall, from the Tang Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty, over 20,000 poems were written about Mount Huang, and a school of painting named after it.

The area has also been a location for scientific research because of its diversity of flora and wildlife. In the early part of the 20th century, the geology and vegetation of Mount Huang were the subject of multiple studies by both Chinese and foreign scientists and today the mountain is still a subject of research.

There are hotels, restaurants and other facilities at the top of the mountain which are serviced and kept stocked by porters who carry resources up the mountain on foot, hanging their cargo from long poles balanced over their shoulders or backs. Throughout your day you will see many of these porters as they grunt and groan their way passed you and the loads they are carrying are simply so hard to believe for the average western tourist and as I found out, even the common Chinese tourist.

Their job and their life is one that I simply can’t understand. I have come across them on all of my journeys but when you are on a mountain like this one…well! Surely with the money the mountain makes each year they could afford a helicopter to carry the cargo.

Then as you stop in bewilderment of that mans job and tiny salary, then look around you and think of all you have seen this day, the buildings, the bricks, the steps and the concrete from which they are made, the concrete handrails, the toilets etc, it was all carted up the mountain by people such as these porters.

There are no roads upon these mountains, only sheer cliff faces. Paying ten Yuan for a coke now seems such a little price to pay for a boost of energy.

<u>HOW TO GET THERE AND HOW MUCH</u>

Most either book a tour bus from a hotel or a Youth Hostel or catch a big air conditioned bus from the cities bus station. I of course I have to find the locals way to do it so I caught a small bus from the Train Station car park which cost 13 Yuan (no aircon and possibly chickens) and took just over an hour. Remember though, like all local buses, they won’t leave until they are full and barely anyone on the bus is going to the tourist site you are going to so some have a heap of luggage they are moving from one city to the other.

I have no idea how much the big buses cost or how long they take but I do know that small minivans tout the train station car park in search of people wanting a speedy journey and I saw many westerners bargaining for a seat.

I was dropped off at a small bus station at the end of Tangkou Town that services strange people like me who don’t go on a tour bus which of course is much easier and it drops you off at the gate of the mountain. My next Public Bus (13 Yuan) dropped me off near the get to the mountain.

Entry into the mountain area is now 230 Yuan and the cable car is 80 Yuan each way. Both can be purchased at the cable car ticket office. Life really is a beautiful thing and don’t let it pass you by! Too Grand Canyon walk or NOT too Grand Canyon walk?

It is of course your choice! But remember that all of these photos including the Grand Canyon walk are taken one thousand or so meters above the ground and that below you are sheer cliff faces/peaks and nothing in between. The mist makes it look like the ground is &#8216;just down there’ but it isn’t, it is far below you.

Beers N Noodles toya…..shane ___________________________________________________________

The soundtrack to this entry was by Guns N Roses The album was both &#8216;Use Your Illusion I & II’ ____________________________________________________________

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Posted by eddakath 17:00 Archived in China

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