One lazy mid-afternoon when Matt and I were in Beijing, we watched the latest version of The Karate Kid– you know, the one with Will Smith’s kid and Jackie Chan. There’s a scene in the movie when Jackie Chan’s character takes the young Smith boy to his hometown to train; the mountainous backdrop is breathtaking. Idly wondering where in China they were, Matt soon discovered that the place- Huangshan (Yellow Mountain)- wasn’t all that far from Hangzhou and featured intense hiking trails…
Flash forward to Memorial Day weekend.
Sabrina, Charlotte, Alison, me, Trisha.
This shot was taken right after the long bus ride- maybe 3.5 hours- to Tang Kou, right before the short bus ride to the foot of Huangshan, and during our walking stick shopping spree. We’re posing with them, but you can’t see them because the woman taking the picture focused on our lovely smiles instead.
Which one to buy?
The walking sticks proved to be a smart purchase about 5 seconds into our trip. And speaking of “our trip,” you might be wondering who Alison and Charlotte are. (Btw, every time I try to type “Alison,” I accidentally type “Alisa.” Miss you, sister.) Alison is a teacher at HFLS, but in the Cambridge program; Charlotte is her daughter. They’re from the UK, have lived in Australia, and were such excellent travel companions that I’m sorry we haven’t done more exploring together.
I’m going to keep this post long on pictures and short on words because as much as I tried to articulate how I felt about what I saw, the best I could come up with was, “Ohmigod, this is awesome, ohmigod, this is so awesome, seriously, ohmigod, wow, just awesome, this is so awesome.” Suffice it to say that Huangshan is commonly known as one of the most beautiful mountains in China, and for me, it was on par with walking on the Great Wall. I felt like I was in Jurassic Park, or maybe The Lord of the Rings, or maybe Avatar. Or Kung Fu Panda. I’ll keep my descriptions of the pictures brief; as I did, please just enjoy the scenery.
Approaching the mountains.
Our route. And our walking sticks.
Another warning. Tee hee.
Buying tickets. Children of certain heights get discounted admissions into the park; this sign says, among other things, “Congratulations for your children growing taller.”
Through the hobbit hole…
And we’re in.
The mountains are granite; the hiking path steps are carved into the stone.
There are a few hotels at one of the mountains’ peaks; these porters carry linens, recycling, and other supplies on their shoulders up and down the eastern mountain path every day. These men had unbelievable balance and strength.
For a fee, you can have 2 porters carry you up in one of these chairs.
Trees can grow in the most challenging environments. Something great about that.
Getting there. Sort of.
The power station at the top of the mountain provides electricity to the hotels up there.
For those unable to hike to the summit, a cable car is available. See it in the distance?
These pines are part of what makes Huangshan scenery unique. Kofi Annan called them “umbrella pines” on a visit here in the mid 2000s, and the name stuck.
Finally, finally at the White Goose summit.
The path to our hotel featured a few classic Chinese signs. I do love how eloquently they promote good behavior.
My favorite sign.
Our hotel, Hotel Shilin, nestled in the trees.
These next few are of the terrace where we’d watch the sunrise on Sunday morning.
If you can’t get a hotel room, you can camp out on this basketball court. Real estate on top of the mountain is, as you can imagine, a bit difficult to come by.
A feast for the famished hikers before an early bedtime.
These next pictures are of the sunrise on Sunday morning. I can’t possibly describe how holy it was to watch the sky and listen to birdsong that seemed otherworldly and try to remind myself that I was looking out over a sea of clouds, not of water. I felt so lucky to be alive. This will be one of my favorite memories from China.
And as always, what goes up must come down. Sunday’s hike took us up a little, down a lot, up some more, and finally down by cable car.
A rare flat stretch of path.
We were treated to so many incredible vistas of Huangshan’s famous clouds on Sunday’s hike.
At Bright Summit/Bright Peak/Brightness Top. Lots of translations.
Following Bright Peak, we found ourselves on a steep and rapid descent. Not many pictures here because it got a bit scary. In a good way.
Becca, I’d love to know what this carving says. The second symbol is “wen,” which means culture or civilization (the road I live on is Wen’er Lu), but I have no idea about the other characters.
On the right side of this photo, somewhere near the middle, you can see the trail ahead of us.
The last bit of our descent involved a cable car ride. After several hours of hiking both days, we were ready for something easy.
Alison and Charlotte on the descent.
Advice to travelers coming up on the cable car.
I think it’s a sign of a successful hike if you can wear out your walking stick.
Since we were awake at 4am and hiking by 6am, we had a few hours to lollygag in Tang Kou before returning to Hangzhou. We had lunch at a restaurant whose menu included a page I just had to share, the bottom half in particular. I think my favorite item is the “Local song bird BBQ.” (And I hate to admit this, but the previous page had a listing for “Dog Meat Stew.” Poor Vilas.)
Besides eating, Tang Kou is a sleepy little town with little else to offer except foot massages, which we all treated ourselves to. Trisha and I also took a walk through the few side streets to see what we could see.
Garlic drying in the sun.
I celebrated my 2011 Memorial Day weekend in a way unlike any other I have before, but with an equal amount of reflection and gratitude. Old mountain, new sunrise; old friends, new friends.