Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Mount Huangshan

Hello everyone!  I hope this finds you doing well.  It's been a little while since I've updated this so I'll warn you that I'm going to have a lot to say!

I'll start off by quickly talking about my most recent kite flying experience.  Thankfully this one ended much better than the last one (Bagewell).  We had a picnic with some Chinese students from the Chinese/English club I frequent and they brought some kites along.  We only had luck flying the giant squid though.  Besides that, last week was pretty much school as normal.  The real fun started on Thursday when we set off for the Yellow Mountains!

The left the bus station around 10:30 am and fortunately this trip didn't have near as much excitement at the departure as our Beijing trip did.  We met up with Simon Cheng, the man we planned pretty much everything through.  A couple guys were fortunate enough to meet him earlier this semester when going to Huangshan.  Needless to say, he was awesome.  If anyone plans on going out there, let me know and I'll get you his contact info.  The first night we were there we went to a small park where Dan and Tori jumped into a freezing river, had an amazing meal that Simon and his wife made, and went to bed early.

The next day (Friday) we got up early, had breakfast at Simon's, and got started on our trek.  We decided to hike up the whole mountain since it was a little cheaper than taking the cable car and we felt like we could handle it.  This hike turned out to be one of the hardest things that I've done.  Even though the path was paved with stone, the combination of stairs, and packs we took left us all exhausted.  The scenery was so beautiful, and the company was great.  I wouldn't trade the experience for anything else.  While going up we also encountered men that were hauling things down the mountain.  They had bamboo yokes with huge packs hanging on either side that they were carrying around.  We also passed a guy carrying up tofu in buckets of water.  Regardless, these guys, and what they carried, were amazing.

The first night on top of the mountain was pretty uneventful.  We were just too exhausted to do anything.  We had convinced Simon that we wanted to sleep in a tent the first night.  We thought this would be in the woods or something like that, it turned out to be on a patio in front of a restaurant.  And besides everyone around us being loud and annoying, it was a pretty good experience.  We had also decided to get up early to watch the sun rise.  This mean getting up around 4 am to head up one of the peaks in the dark.  Fortunately Daniel Flavin had a head lamp and several of us had our handy phone flashlights to light the way.  In the end we just saw the sky go from dark to light because it was too cloudy to see the sun.  Being up so early did have it's perks though.  While the rest of our group went back to sleep, Dan and I hiked around in a fairly empty park and found a cliff with a great view of a large ravine.  This turned out to be really handy later.

Saturday turned out to be a lot better than we expected.  The forecast called for snow and rain all day so we packed warm clothes.  It turned out to be a great spring day with the perfect mixture of sun, shade, and temperature.  We couldn't have asked for better weather.  The rest of the day we just hiked around and lounged at a couple of the peaks.  On our way back from towards our hostel we noticed mist forming in one of the valleys.  It turned out that the cliff that Dan and I were sitting on had a perfect view of the mist coming into the ravine.  It was amazing to see the mountains look like they were just floating there in the mist.  It was by far one of the most beautiful things that I've ever seen.  The best way I can describe it is like the mountains in Avatar...except real...and right in front of me.  The pictures I have just don't do it justice.  Dan and I also went back after dinner to try to watch the sun set.  Unfortunately the angle wasn't right and we wound up running up one of the peaks to try to catch it.  We weren't able to, but we did see mist envelope the main area where our hostel was the night before.  That in itself was pretty amazing.

We got to spend that night in a hostel with five other Chinese people.  I was amazed by the cell phone charger one of them used.  It was some mixture of a strobe light and rainbow that lit up an entire corner of the room.  I have no idea why anyone would want one of those, it was just so obnoxious!  The hostel was also located in the drop off zone for one of the cable ways to the top of the mountain.  This resulted in a bunch of screaming tour groups right outside our door.  And when our Chinese roommates managed to leave the door to our room open, it got even louder.  Needless to say, we didn't sleep as well as we would have liked to.  When we finally crawled out of bed, we realized how bad the weather was outside.  It was foggy, misty, rainy, cold and all around nasty.  After we got all packed up we started our four hour hike down the mountain.  It was really cool to descend down into the mist as we headed down.

The rest of the trip was pretty chill.  We had a couple more meals at Simon's and rested our weary legs.  We also got to wander around in the town and check some things out.  I would up buying some cheap sunglasses and some candied kiwi.  I don't know if I've just been missing it in the States, but it's very good!  By my estimates, we hiked about 35ish kilometers or around 20 miles.  Most of it on some sort of incline.  I wouldn't have changed any of it though.

That's pretty much all for now.  As of this afternoon I have six weeks left in China.  We're getting geared up for another round of exams and quizzes.  But after that I'll be planning a trip to Xi'an while Tori and Dan finalize our plans for Tibet.  Both of these look to be amazing trips and I'm looking forward to telling you about them!  Anyway, have a great week back in the States!

Huangshan Pictures
Blurry Video
Minhang Photos