Hey Hey and a Big G'Day toya,
Upon waking I lay in doubt about the day ahead. Could it match the breathtaking and unearthly wonders of yesterday? Upon rising I figured that I was being more than selfish with my expectations.
After leaving the guesthouse I retraced last night’s steps and once again whilst standing at the 'Arranging Battles Platform’ I found myself gazing across the Shentang Valley so filled with mysterious peaks thrusting towards the sky that it’s almost unbearable to even consider turning your back on it. As usual given such a situation I wondered how on earth I was blessed with such a wonderful life yet at the same time thanked the stars above for giving me the courage to leave my life of normality, rid my belongings and simply walk (or fly for that matter) into an unknown future with a totally blank canvas with which paint.
Or should I actually say an unknown future with a blank blog with which to write. There I stood transfixed and blessed by the reality of the life I have come to live!
Located in the northern part of Wulingyuan, Tianzi Mountain is named after Xiang Dakun who led the local farmers' revolt and called himself Tianzi (the Son of Heaven). It lies on the highest point of "Golden Triangle", its highest point being 1262.5m and it has an area of sixty seven square kilometers. The majority of scenic spots are formed of quart stones, belonging to a sandstone ground feature which is the same as Suoxiyu Valley which evolved from rocks that subsided from oceans 380,000,000 years ago.
My tranquil moment led me slowly towards the Tianzi Mountain Scenic Zone and Helong Park where I was suddenly woken by a couple from Israel who were just as amazed as me to see another foreigner with whom to sit and chat. They have been travelling around China for several weeks and since leaving the big cities behind they had hardly seen another foreign person with whom to share their experiences with. We got to know each other over overpriced cold canned Nestle coffee, crappy cold tourist noodles and several tea eggs. After our fix of G’Day Mate, Howzitgarn and Catchya Round (for those who are confused with the Aussieisms, they spent several years living and working in Australia) we said Seeya Later Mate.
They then began their journey deep down into the deep depths of the Shentang Valley. I decided to hang around for a while and take in some more of the observation platforms.
I spent an awesome hour racing up and down stairs between observation decks but when it came time to begin my journey downwards it all became a little confusing. It seemed that no matter where I went I couldn’t actually find the one pathway that would allow me to descend. I shared maps with many Chinese tourists, some of whom gathered their tour guides and no matter what information I followed I simply arrived at one of the observation decks that I had already visited.
So with weary legs I decided to head across to the only pavilion that filled my views/ Behind the Pavilion I finally found the pathway that slowly led to the valley below.
Shentang Valley a gorge shaped like a huge basin walled by lofty precipices. The bottom of the gorge is veiled in mists and clouds all day, adding to its mysteriousness. As the saying goes, the most beautiful scene is seen from the most perilous peak. There are almost no roads to Shentang Valley, only a quite dangerous flight of stairs that is as wide as a foot being available. Local people say, ‘Every step kills one soul’.
After what seemed an eternity of stairs and a well over priced coke I finally made it down to the ‘Sightseeing Mini-Train’ which was begging to take me to the next bus station. After looking around me I wondered why anyone would have first thought to build a rail line through such beauty so I of course opted to place one weary leg before the other and walk the rest of the way.
What I would do upon arrival I actually had no idea! Thankfully my answer came in the form of a mother and daughter. From this moment I was adopted by a bus full of some of the most wonderful people!
Visiting Wulingyuan all the way from Huangshan in Anhui Province was a group of teachers along with some of their children. I spent my walk with Maria and her daughter Susie and I was surprised at how good Maria’s English was until I found out she was an English Teacher at a Middle School in a small village near Huangshan Mountain. When we arrived at the bus station I had a billion photos taken with Susie and Maria and what seemed like a town full of people who then asked me to spend the rest of the afternoon with them.
Being the adventurous type I simply said YES!
We boarded their tour bus back to their big hotel where we all sat for huge and delicious meal full of tender fish and fresh vegetables after which we once again filled the seats of their bus and headed to a foot massage place somewhere between Wulingyuan Town and the Yellow Dragon Cave. The foot and shoulder massage was free but it was all about business and once the ‘You Buy You Buy’ lady had soon said her thing…..buy they did. Hundreds upon hundreds of Yuan was handed over for what seemed to me was nothing but Tiger Balm repackaged
It was warm, it smelt and it was jived upon. So it was the ‘be all end all of pain and weight gain! I silently sat thinking, just buy some tiger balm and do more exercise!’
<u>Yellow Dragon Cave</u>
Upon entering the Yellow Dragon Cave one must prepare themselves for not only scenery of a different kind but also for a lot of stairs and walking. The cave has four levels and has a vertical height of over one hundred meters. It would be lovely to walk at your own pace and meander amongst the impressive collection of stalactites and stalagmites (all of which are illuminated in a variety of colored lights) but this is China and in a place such as this the tour groups become the tribe and their guide the Queen.
Everyone else must walk at a brisk pace somewhere in between!
The caves most outstanding feature is an almost twenty meter high stalagmite that has been named the Holy Needle. In legend it protects the Dragon King who resides in the caves darkened depths. This delicately balanced stalagmite (which is only ten centre meters in diameter) was reportedly insured in 1998 for 100 million Yuan.
That’s around US$12.1 million!
Halfway through our darkened adventure we more than happily boarded several small boats that slowly took us along the caves underground river passing by more colourful stalactites and stalagmites, some of which were grotesque and others so beautiful that they filled their part of the cave with enchantment and left me wondering if I was to meet my own Snow White sometime soon. Sadly she never emerged from the colourful world below so at the end of our journey those of us who had not had enough happily hand over an extra fifteen Yuan and ventured down into the caves last level.
Here there were no colourful lights to create a dynamic world of Disney. Here there was only silence and different shades of white frozen in time.
Above ground and beneath the blue sky I said good bye to my bus full of new friends who would be attending ‘some production thingy’ several hours later. After waving good bye I spent some time walking around the small and attractive park that surrounded the caves entrance.
I had been told that there were no buses leaving the Cave Park back to Zhangjiajie city and once I left the gates I was set upon by Mini-Bus Drivers who DEMANDED that I pay them fifty Yuan to take me to the nearest bus station in Wulingyuan Tourist City which I knew was only a five to ten minute drive away. Another driver began arguing with them because he was happy for me to pay him one hundred Yuan to take me all the way back to Zhangjiajie city which was about an hour away. As it was less than a night’s accommodation in Wulingyuan city, if needed he would have won my favor.
I though, had other ideas as I knew there was a public bus that I could catch to the station. The problem was I just didn’t know what number or what time it finished. Help came in the form of Chinese Patrick and his happy family. Bus No: 1 which finishes at or around seven pm! Thanks Patrick, see you on QQ!
It’s now late evening and I’m being stared at by everyone in Mc Donald’s.
I don’t think they are happy with me because I took the corner booth which doesn’t allow a million people to fill a booth behind me to see what I’m writing on my computer. Several people who have occupied the booth beside me have asked to check out my Lonely Planet, one of whom asked if she could keep it as I was the first foreigner any of them had ever spoken to.
As she wore a cross I wanted to ask her if she’d attend Church without her bible. Well sorry mate, I prefer not to travel without mine either. It was unspoken but we had a happy understanding.
No need for a Big Mac, Quarter Pounder or even a thick shake this evening (the ElcheapO coffee was more than awesome as always) , Connie and Monique have just arrived and are taking me out for street side BBQ (meat and vegetable sticks) that will be washed down by too many cold beers over much laughter.
Beers N Noodles toya…..shane ___________________________________________________________
The soundtrack to this entry was by a JJJ Hottest 100 compilation. The album was ‘The Year 2007’. Thanks Jude! ____________________________________________________________