This photo-blog is designed to work either as a standard blog with images or - by clicking any image - a photo-album. To see an image in full resolution in the 2006 journey, click to the left or right of an image in blog mode.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Sheer Poetry of Huangshan

Square in Tunxi

Huangshan is the mountain revered as most iconic of classical Chinese landscape art. We set off for Huangshan in a bus from Hangzhou and arrived at Tunxi in the late afternoon and was immediately besieged by touts trying to get us into their hotels in the main street.

Tunxi river and Huangshan Mountain

Not wanting to be bullied into any arrangement and knowing it might be possible to stay in student dormitories at the top of the mountain, we immediately set off up the slope of the road alongside the scrappy river with all our luggage on our little trolley to where they said taxis could take us up to the aerial cable car. A guy from Australia joined us and we took a taxi together up the winding hairpins through the forest to the foot of the cable car.

The cable car up the mountain from Tunxi leaves from here

We jumped on the cable car with all our luggage and set off imagining that when we got to the top it would be an easy walk to the dormitories. The cable car had tiny cabs just big enough for four people and rose precipitously very high above the rocky vee shaped valley.

It gave both peerless views of the mountains and hair-raising altophobia when you looked down.

Eventually the cable began to climb steeply up the mountain face and became almost vertical.

Christine is very unhappy as the cable reaches near vertical ascent

Two views of the summit end of the cable car.

However when we got to the summit station, we found we weren't at the summit t all but at the foot of a sttep winding path of steps that goes right up the side of the cliff face as the next image shows.

So we negotiated with a guy in the sweet shop by the terminal, figuring he couldn't take it down the cable car without it being obvious, and after many refusals he finally agreed to hold the bulk of our luggage for 40 Yuan and even meticulously gave us a little receipt for it. This left our Australian friend in a quandry and he staggered on up with all his heavy gear holding us partly responsible for his dire predicament.

The path wound up through awesome scenery, in no way diminished by the deepening dusk.

Lovers locks sealed to the chains to declare their eternal love for one another

We walked along with some students who like many of the Mandarin speakers we met also spoke good English.

A Qing-era ink painting of Huangshan - Shitao (Wikipedia)

You can just see the railing on the summit (top left)

Then as the path came to the most precipitous part of the mountain, the students all said we had to take the steep left-hand route (because the authorities had put up a sign so that those coming down could take the easier route and there would be no traffic jam). This proved to be a very steep narrow stairway cut right into the side of the mountain that was almost so steep we couldn't climb it with our day packs.

A view of the path back down

View of the summit area with the reservoir and observatory

Fence line along the summit edge

After reaching the summit, we still hadn't made it to our prospective accommodation and had to walk for another twenty minutes across the alpine valley nestled between rocky peaks until we came to a glossy looking dormitory hotel which to our relief had room spare in its dorms, despite it being a bit of a dog of a place to stay, with stinking toilets and crowded student facilities.

Sunset from the dormitory

Christine leaving the hotel in the fog

We were so lucky that we had made this epic journey into uncertainty at the end of the day because next morning the whole mountain was covered in fog and misty rain, with little or no visibility.

We headed off down the mountain path again, this time taking the easier more tortuous route down to where we arrived to pick up our luggage, although there are many paths across the mountain that go to other destinations around it.

Views through the mist in the morning

The precipitous cliff-edge path back down

Sedan chairs used to carry the unfit up the mountain

A porter with a heavy load overlooking the path back up

A little kiosk nearly back to the cable car terminal

Looking back through the pine forest

The mysterious path in the mist

Christine a little more hopeful on the wet way down (harder to see how high we are)

Just as we took the cable car, the rain began to set in, and we found several of the people who came with us on the bus and had stayed the night in Tunxi forlornly pacing around the terminal lamenting the fact that there was no visibility for their trip up the mountain.

The mountain is now lost in the clouds

A precipitous path on a different leg of the mountain trail (Wikipedia)

We ended up waiting for part of the day in the pouring rain in Tunxi, where we had bought a couple of non-reserve train tickets for Guilin where we planned to link on to Yangshuo in the Karst mountain country.

When the train arrived there was a rush and almost a fight for places in the queue and we raced to the second class section, knowing from Lonely Planet that there was a little ticket booth in the first second class carriage on the train, where you could take up any spare hard sleeper reservations (much cheaper than the soft sleepers many of the other Westerners settled for in their haste). This proved successful and we were first or second in line and got a lovely second class sleeper cubicle.

Hard sleepers in China are immaculately kept, with scrupulously clean 'silk'-lined duvets and very comfortable low foam mattresses - not at all too hard for a comfortable night's sleep. There is also clean boiling water in thermos flasks to fill your instant noodles containers. But of course there are six people to an open cubicle, rather than the four to a closed one in the soft class, so you have to keep an eye on your stuff and go for at least one out of the way top bunk if you can get it.

No comments:

Post a Comment