Saturday, October 29, 2011

Misty Mountains and Knackered Knees

Right – I’m now in Huangshan after an uneventful journey, apart from trying to update my blog at the airport and it just disappeared!! Literally – I posted an update, it said – 'Blog updated' and then when I looked at it – It was blank, apart from the Heading about Pandas! It did this twice!! Weird!

Anyway, I made it to Huangshan, a real Chinese city. A bit dirty, load of weird shit going on, like blokes with massive mallets battering some kind of food on top of a barrel, until its flat, or dead or whatever the hell they are trying to do with it. I took a walk around when I got here and apart from seeing that, I also had a few weird looks from the locals as I wandered about and I found a group of about 100 blokes gambling with card games under a bridge (Gambling is not allowed here), they looked at me strangely as I took some pictures, but they were all friendly enough and I even spotted a bit of cheating going on. Dodgy bugars.

There are also gatherings of couples in the park and in the city centre, where someone brings along a loudspeaker and they all dance around in circles. Its really quite nice and sociable, maybe even a bit romantic, as there are obviously people sat around the edges of the circle, wearing their high heels, waiting for someone to as them to dance!

The mopeds here are also really dangerous – Most of them are electric, so they run silently. A normal moped, you can hear coming up behind you, but here in China, where as normal, the locals ride everywhere – pavement, road, inside buildings, on the subway, along the airport runways etc, they just expect you to move, even though you cant hear the bugars coming. As normal, they only care about themselves, it seems to be the way unfortunately. The mopeds also have a cool thing – All the female riders have umbrella's attached that they open up for rain or sun!

I have had a bit if a cough recently so I found a chemist as well and after going in, holding my throat, coughing and then looking hopefully at the nice lady, she brought out a bottle of this thick gooey stuff that is a bit like treacle, but does my cough loads of good! I hope it will be gone soon, as its pissing me off now. But at least it was fun getting the medicine!! I’m now sat in the hostel, its cold and I have on my new fleece, so I just off out for an bit of a wander around to see what’s going on – not a lot was the answer. It was pretty much the same as it was this afternoon, but dark! It was pretty nicely lit, as you would expect, but this towns main goal is to get the tourists to the mountain, so after a quick wander about I went to bed and watched some telly.

I had a really quiet day of relaxation today. As I’m off up the mountain at 6am, I had a good lie in, did some shopping for chocolate and biscuits, to keep my energy up while I hike around the mountain tomorrow and generally got ready to go. As I have said, I’m only here to see the mountain, so today was always a restful day, before 2 days wandering around and getting up early to see the sunrise at the peak. Off to bed soon, for an early night! I will be adding a bit of my own graffiti though, to the already well graffiti'd walls in my dorm. It seems that not only is it allowed to write on the walls here, its positively encouraged.

Well, I'm now all set up in my dorm at the top of HUANGSHAN MOUNTAIN. Its been a hell of a day (I'm actually writing this in my note book and will transpose it to my netbook tomorrow afternoon)
I travelled here on a dodgy bus and after swapping to a 2nd bus and then a 3rd, buying a ticket and queueing for 45 minutes , it was a cable car up and then a walk around the peaks (Well, over them, around them and past them!) . I started with 'Seeing is believing' peak, and along with 'Monkey looking at the clouds' and other such named rocks, I saw most of what is here in about 7 hours hiking. But it was a brilliant 7 hours.

Huangshan mountain itself is what James Cameron actually based the alien landscape on in the movie 'Avatar' -and you can certainly tell. Massive granite peaks, some only a few feet wide soar above the clouds. There are hundreds if not thousands of them all with strange local names which when translated are brilliant. 'Floating rock', 'Purple cloud peak', 'Heavenly dog watching the moon' and my personal favourite - 'mobile phone rock' - are just a few. I have clambered, climbed, ascended and descended hundreds of metres in all directions - walking tiny handmade paths impossibly built into the sheer cliff faces with drops where you cant see the bottom, all the while with loud tour groups passing me by – a lot of them stopping to say or shout 'Hello' at the weird white dude. The clouds that this place is famous for certainly keep you cool, but are full of surprises - a number of times I've looked up to see clouds everywhere, then a minute later its cleared and the views are amazing -unbelievable!! Everything up here has been built by hand and even more amazingly has been carried here by hand too - every now and then sherpas pass by carrying their loads - gas bottles, bricks, coke cans - everything is carried up - including breeze blocks, 6 at a time, to build the massive new hotels that are going up here.

After walking all morning and the into the afternoon I finally made it to the place I came here to see - a tiny bridge, no more than 30 feet long, but joining together a cave that passes through one cliff face and a precipice above another sheer drop. It is called 'Fairy walking bridge' and is just amazing. It has a drop of about 200 metres straight down between these 2 sheer cliffs that face each other. It is just stunning as you descend around a corner in the rock face and are greeted by this wonderful little bridge and have to walk through a cave to reach it. I was beat after that though - my knees have started to get painful and I don’t want to get stuck down a set of steps and not be able to get back up, so I have settled in for the night and will be up again at 5ish for sunrise, before finishing off the sights with a walk back down the mountain. 

After a crap nights sleep – My legs just wouldn’t leave me alone!! I was awake and out of the nice little dorm room by 5am. The rest of the room was up and getting ready, so I just upped and left and managed to get my way back up to 'Bright Peak', well before 6am. The views were even better than yesterday as day dawned and the clouds dropped to a perfect height, just above the mountain top, creating a flowing, living curtain of mist that rolled beautifully across the landscape. It was stunning and there wasn’t even any sun to see! Id love to see it when there actually was a sunrise!! I made a few friends, taking pictures for each other, chatting about where we were from and one chinese guy even copied me doing a 'Rooney pose' on top of a fence post. It was a great start to the day.

My plan was to do sunrise and get down the mountain before my knees seized up. But as I passed Locus Peak – the highest and hardest peak of the mountain, I thought 'Fuck it!' and started up. It was bloody hard work, but I got up there after over 1000 more steps. (I worked out that I have done between 15000 and 18000 steps up and down over the two days – thats about 9 to 10 times more than the Empire state building.) The views made it worthwhile and I made more friends on the way and on the top.

My knees are fooked!

I eventually headed down, counting the 1500 steps all the way to cable car. By now my left knee was killing and my right wasn’t much better (Old age eh!!) so I was really glad to get onto the cable car and rest for 10 minutes. But true to form, when I reached the bottom, I walked the rest of the 7km back to town (Including another 1000 steps) - Ill be alright, its only a knee or two!! haahaa!

I found a minibus that was going back to Tunxi, where I left my bags and after driving around town to pick up more passengers, including taking them off other buses and chasing people down the street, we eventually drove back to Tunxi and Huangshan City, where I walked the last half mile or so back to the Hostel.

I was blown away by Huangshan Mountain – It goes up into my top 10 or 15 places I have been – even though the tour groups with megaphones spoiled it a bit, the friendliness of the other tourists (I only saw 3 more 'westerners' in two days, made it a really happy experience. There was a surprise around every corner and up and down every step. I probably wont be walking very far for the next few days as my knees recover, but it was worth every bit of pain. China is beginning to grow on me!!

Haungshan mist

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