Cable-cars, step aerobics and stilettos
Huang Shan – “The Yellow Mountain”. A pilgrimage site trodden by emperors. Famous for its spectacular scenery and 18 kilometre hike up stone steps to its summit. According to the Rough Guide – Huang Shan is regarded as sacred in China, and it's the ambition of every Chinese to conquer it at least once in their lifetime – complete tosh! The lazy buggers take the cable car!! (For those of you that read about the Great Wall you will remember that the Stilettos and finery were on full show, Huan Shan was no exception.)
The epic journey to Huang Shan took 5 hours on a bus, and 50mins on a local shuttle bus. This seems pitiful now but at the time it felt like a real mission. I expect that it would still seem epic should we have to repeat it as the language barrier consumes more energy and inevitably more stress. That said we were lucky to meet a lovely Malaysian lady and her American partner as we got off the bus in Tunxi (Huangshan City) which helped greatly as she spoke Mandarin. Unfortunately the canny bus driver dropped us off at the back of the bus station where a pack of pushy taxi drivers were there waiting to pounce! So after shaking off the hyena's (taxi drivers) we found the bus station and navigated our way to the next shuttle bus to Tangkuo (Huangshan scenic area). With a bit of help from our Malaysian friend we were loaded on to a hot and cramped minibus and off we set on the second part of the journey. At Tangkuo we were collected by the hotel to spend the night before the big climb.
We checked in at the Pine Ridge Lodge. The accommodation was situated outside in a hut with an adequate room. Dinner was outside in the courtyard/bar area and had to be ordered via telephone to the owner Wayne, who then translated our order to his staff.
The big adventure up Huang Shan Mountain (18km of steps to the summit and transverse to the Beihai hotel for the night) began at 5.30am with breakfast Chinese style (stodgy bread dumplings, a boiled egg, plain boiled rice still in its watery starch, a warm milky liquid and condiments of sugar, chilly and a bitter cabbage substance....mmmmm), thankfully we took cups of tea with us! Still, this appeared to have all the base ingredients of proteins and carbohydrates. Everything you need for a 4-6 hour climb up a mountain.
Fuelled up, checked out, big ruck sacks in left luggage, and wee rucksacks containing change of clothes, nuts for Monkey-Steve, water and a hip-flask of whisky to toast the mountain. We were off.
Jen and Steve usual style; there is a route up the mountain and we want to do it backwards according to the recommendation by the hotel but the correct way as per the Rough Guide! To get to the start point of the mountain there are 2 buses one that serves the East cable car and the other the West. Most people take the East bus so we went West along with a few others, all Chinese. Off the bus and walked the short distance to the Entrance gate.
Surprisingly (or not) the crowd died and we were the only ones that bought entrance tickets without the cable car!
Video - coming soon
Our initial reaction to the climb was: wow! we are doing this with 2-3 litres of water on our backs plus overnight kit! However it's sobering to see Chinese porters setting about their days work to a walk of 18km of steps whilst carrying scaffolding poles or tall gas canisters and other building materials to the top! Some of the loads were double the body weight of the person doing the carrying. I believe I have now met the most mentally and physically strongest men in the world. On the East side they carry hotel and shop supplies (drinks, food, linen, etc). What goes up must come down so they also carry rubbish, washing etc back down the mountain that in some places you need your hands to help you scrabble to the top or at the very least the handrail if there is one!
There was a strong sense of camaraderie as we climbed, passed people and rested. The common goal for many was the summit or for those descending the understanding of the struggle with the steepness of the steps and strong sense of vertigo for some. So enough typing, here follows a series of pictures and videos of our climb...
It is a tradition to attach a padlock to the various chain railings of Mount Huang Shan if you climb it as a couple. This symbolises a couples strength and commitment. So we took a padlock and attached it half way up the mountain at a point only reached by walking (Note the only Virgin Active padlock on the mountain. Drop us a comment for the combination if you want to get this to a higher point!)...
Video - coming soon
Yes I know what your thinking, wallys! We realised in the video only at the top that unlike a camera you cannot turn a video camera in portrait! Ok so that was only realised later and so you will have to put up with a few more wonky videos on this blog!
From here to the top of Lotus peak.
From Lotus Peak to the Beihai Hotel for check-in, lunch, survey of surroundings for sunrise and dinner.
Dinner is a tale to be told, it was like the hut that we had checked into, expensive. It was also a buffet, great - all you can eat, and that is what we did! We had a great time chatting to a couple from New York and eating our buffet that contained no meat, only veg. Ok mustn't grumble the love handles are melting away! The couple that we were chatting to finished and left the restaurant and we continued our loading up after a strenuous day walking. All going well when Steve shakily says- Jen, lets move from the table, I'm either hallucinating from the malaria tablets or I just saw a... at which point a rather fat 4 legged friend ran out from under our table across the restaurant, was witnessed by 2 waitresses (looking shocked) and under the table of other diners that felt the creature (didn't see it). So Steve and I left the table and walked briskly out of the 4 star hotel restaurant. Steve had originally seen the 4 legged creature run across our table, just off to the side clinging to the table cloth and was unsure at first if it was a child's head, cat or something else. Grim.
After a disturbing end to dinner and a restless few hours hearing funny squeaky noises we had a very good nights sleep before sunrise. Wow sunrise was beautiful...
Our day from here took in the amazing sights of the West Canyon views...
A trip to the East side to head down the steps took in many more amazing sights and a 3 hour descent down the rather steep and vertigo inducing steps....
Well worth the effort to see this. We retreated to the Pine Ridge Lodge and one of their main rooms for 2 nights of rest relaxation, blogging and photo uploading.