I feel like this Hunagshan story took so long to tell that its not even relevant anymore haha. Well basically after parting way with our mobile tin can and snagging some breakfast, Matthew and I agreed our next move should be finding a place to stay for the night. Luckily we located a small hostel not far from the train station. Unluckily they were all booked up, except for the possibility of having an open ‘tent’. Its a popular thing in hostels, at least in China, to have a room full of tents that can be rented out for much cheaper than a bed. Having not slept on the train I was ready to sleep right on the floor, so a tent seemed like a dream. However, after further examination the little guy behind the front desk diminished our hopes of finding an open sleeping space anywhere in their building, but did give us the address of a hostel located in the Ancient Town section of Huangshan.
Ancient Town looks exactly how it sounds, which was absolutely fantastic. Even though it was a preserved area of ancient China within a much larger, more developed, city…it was still more old school than anything I had seen in Shanghai. Plus the hostel had open beds at a relatively cheap price. The only downside was that we couldn’t check in until noon, and at the time it was approximately 7:45. TIME TO WANDER! and wander we did, straight into the first place we found that sold wonton soup (figurative food-boner achieved). I love me some wonton soup.
We walked around, got our picture taken by some random lady, and saw some cats. Thats about all that registered between The Soup period in time, and the brief coma I slipped into on my hostel bed.
After waking up Matthew and I did some more wandering, sampling the local street cuising along the way. We booked bus tickets to Huangshan Mt. (where Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was filmed) for the next morning. We eventually decided to kick our stroll up a notch and purchase some drank but, having eaten so irregularly all day, that landed both of us in the bathroom that evening.
The next day we squeezed into a small bus and headed for the mountain. Upon arrival we were left with literally no clue where to go, and the only distinguishable feature of our surroundings was a bus station. We headed down the road, hoping to find someone with a map, where instead we found the Johnny Knoxville of cab drivers.
A small van stopped across the street and the driver yelled for us to come over. Why not? He held out a map of Huangshan Mt. which we took for him asking us where we would like to go. The mountain was a lot bigger than it looked in the pictures, but eventually we pointed to an area called 9 Dragons Waterfall. We hopped into the cab and breathed a sigh of relief at finally being on our way. What we didn’t realize was that we were almost on our way to an early grave.
Whenever I call home, there are certain aspects of life in China that I leave out of the conversation with Mom. Most because they are insignificant, but occasionally I’ll exclude something because it would literally turn every hair on poor Anne’s head grey. This was one of those experiences. The route to the base of the waterfall park was hilly. Thats an understatement, we were driving on the edge of a mountain. Our driver was utilizing techniques that wouldn’t be safe if you were driving in the middle of Nebraska with no one around for miles, let alone on a narrow mountainside road with cars seemingly appearing from thin air. At one point, and I can’t be positive about this, but we got into a bit of a chicken match with an oncoming cab driver. Our driver jerked the wheel violently, throwing me out of my seat, and almost out the sliding door window to my left! I was having a pretty awesome time to be honest. We began descending further into the valley, and luckily at that point the guard rail dissapeared. Finally! Nothing like a shitty guard rail to spoil a near death experience. But, have no fear, we arrived safe and sound…and only minorly bruised.
The park, which of course cost 60 RMB to enter, was beautiful. About 1km into the hike we came across a big pool at the base of a small waterfall. The sign pinned to the tree nearby read “Absolutely no swimming, Water is too deep”….so of course we went swimming. Well actually, first Matthew almost fell down the small waterfall after we decided to “blaze a new path” on the trail, because its the American way obviously. But he fell, I laughed, and since his feet were already wet it only made sense we should jump in. It was freezing, I got a lot of rocks in boxers, but in retrospect it was worth it.
We hiked farther, the trail got steeper, and the views got better. We came across several of the main waterfalls, many of which you could just hang out on the rocks below.
There was still about 5 km of hiking left on the trail, but Matthews knee hurt, so he stayed behind while I continued. After about 1km the trail turned vertical, as I was pretty much walking on make shift steps for what seemed like forever. Eventually the trail leveled out a bit, but with this it also lost width. Before I knew it I was walking on a narrow trail on the edge of a cliff with, you guessed it, no guard rail. Good..fuck the guard rail haha. I was really hot, and even more thirsty, but as far as I could tell I wasn’t going to come across any refreshment until I completed the trail (which quickly became vertical again). Now besides water, the one thing I DEFINITELY needed was a sprained ankle haha. So I found myself tip toeing on the edge of the trail, and jumping from rock to rock. I did this for a while until a realized I wasn’t moving very quickly, and thus put the shenanigans on hold and resumed my traditional walk.
The rest of the hike was pretty standard. I had some great views, saw some wildlife, didn’t take pictures because I’m an idiot, and then reached the end and turned back. I picked by excessively bored and slightly aggrivated amigo up about, and the two of us hiked back down to the entrance of the park.
We knew we only had one option for getting back to the bus station. Actually thats not true, we had about 6 different options, but we had to go with the epic daredevil who drove us here. Matthew scored his card, and we called him up. He couldn’t understand a word of our English, and we couldn’t understand a word of his Chinese, but ten minutes later he came flying into the parking lot, narrowly missing a group of hikers. “Oh, there he is”, we both said aloud.
The ride back up was just as epic as the ride down. He dropped us at a nearby station, where we waited on the side of the road for a small bus to pick us up. We knew this bus wasn’t untraditional, what we didn’t know was just how untraditional it was. The bus had 5 passengers on it, including Matthew and I. Hardly enough people to make the drive to Huangshan City worthwhile. So, instead we drove back and forth through the small towns near Huangshan Mt. while the female bus attendant shouted from the window “HUANGSHAN CITY!!!!, ANYBODY GOING TO HUANGSHAN CITY!!!”, but in Chinese. It took me a little while to grasp exactly what was happening because at first it seemed like such a ridiculous concept. But believe it or not she managed to pull enough random people off the sidewalk to fill the entire bus. We were on our way.
The rest of our time in Huangshan was pretty uneventful. We got some dinner, drank a little, hung out with a Chinese girl at the hostel who we later found out was engaged (buzzkill) and then called it a night.
The next morning a shuttle arrived outside our hostel to take us to the bus station. I should mention that I have been to more bus stations on this trip then in my entire life prior. Our bus was set to leave at 7A.M. I was there at 7, Matthew was there, most of the passengers were there, even the bus (who had been drinking heavily the night before) managed to wheel itself out of bed. Everyone showed up except for the bus driver. By 7:15 one of the other drivers came over and offered to give our driver a call. As he spoke, I tried to study my peers facial expressions to see if I could determine the reason for his tardiness. They all seemed pretty calm so I assumed that meant he was still coming, but then where was he? One of the guys there came over to me and said “he’s eating breakfast”. Ohhhhh hes eating breakfast, well thats cool I mean far be it from me to disturb a guy whos getting his snack on…BREAKFAST!? China is the country of handheld breakfasts! Not to mention, these hand held breakfasts are sold on literally every street corner! Grab and go partner! Now I should mention that I had not eaten breakfast, so my anger was fueled partially by jealousy for this guy, but come on man. Eventually he did show up, and around 8 we finally departed Huangshan City for Shanghai. Oh and did I mention the bus ride home takes 5 and a half hours. Rewind a bit Colin, didn’t it take 13 hours to get there? Why yes it did Imaginary Readers, but because of the indirect route taken by the rail system, the trip time is almost tripled. I looked at a map and it was pretty clear that the 3 and a half hours spent traveling southeast (in order to get to our western desination) was the likely reason for the time increase.
All in all the trip to Huangshan was a total blast. Although some parts were boring its hard to say they were dull. The mountain was fantastic and my only regreat is that I wasn’t able to capture it all on film. Thats what happens when you pack your bag in 3 minutes…you forget the video camera.