We had a four day pass at Wulingyuan Scenic Area and even though the weather wasn’t great we decided to head back and try a new area of the park.
After an hours hike our plans went a bit tits up as the trail we planned to take was closed for repair. We had about four decisions to choose from, from a long day hiking back and heading steeply up for an hour and a half or taking the cruisey option of the flat river and just heading back to our semi warm hotel. We went for a random option which was to go back to where we were two days before, Hallelujah mountain area to see the same stunning scenery but in cloud, hoping for a mystical shot.
The weather had seriously chilled down and it was almost as cold as yesterday’s icy walk around Tianmen Mountain. Half way up the steps they started to become icy and they just got worse the higher we went. Locals walked down with crampons or some locally made shoe covers woven with twine for extra grip. The damp air froze in sheets on our jackets and the tips of my hair iced over.
We eventually made it to the upper ice rink, I mean pathway, where we slid along to stay safe. Monkeys walking along the railings would cause us to hover in limbo till they went past and we could regain our grip on the rail.
The views were pants, I’m so happy we got to see this magical park in good weather as today it was just clouds everywhere. Hallelujah gave us a little show though, swooping the clouds around its delicate pinnacle like a burlesque dancer with feathers. The clouds looked pretty cool, like the valley floor was full of dry ice and it caused a smokey look but it wasn’t quite the crispy mountain floating above the clouds as we’d hoped.
The last thing I wanted to do was go back down those steps, one slip and you’d struggle to stop yourself slipping down a hundred or so more. So we decided to get two shuttle buses north and exit the park there. After the first bus we asked the driver where the next one was and he suggested that there were no more buses, the north was all closed due to the ice. Ah fuck! We considered getting a cable car down and bus from there but no one else was getting it which made us think that area was closed too. By the time we decided to get a bus back from where we’d come from about 40 people turned up from nowhere queuing for a bus. I felt like we were in the Trumen Show and weren’t giving enough action so they thought they’d spice things up a bit.
For the first time in China there was pushing and shoving (though it was still a walk in the park compared to India) to get on the bus, and it took three buses before we could shuffle to the front and be on our way.
We had two options now – literally a day full of decision making which I hate. We could walk back down those dreaded steps or get the Bai Long elevator down and walk along the river. Either way we were cutting it fine to actually get back in time for the last bus. We went for the elevator – it’s the highest outdoor lift in the world and cramped about a dozen people in the glass box. It also cost about £8, can’t believe we just paid for a bloody lift. We were right opposite a huge pinnacle and followed its length down till we reached the bottom and weaved our way through the crowd to get out. The views round here were amazing and no low-cloud but we didn’t have any time to admire it.
It was now 4.45pm, we had a 2 hour walk back and the last bus was at 7pm. We looked like a couple of old ramblers speed walking with our arms frantically swinging from side to side. It was beginning to get dark and the previously busy trail was now empty. We made it back in record time, just over an hour, and ran for a bus as it was doing a five point turn to leave the park.
We got back to Zhangjiajie freezing cold and walked past the regular homeless man who has taken over a bus station near our hotel. It’s filled with empty plastic bottles and any goodies he’s found. The owner and proprietor was lying atop his belongings on his back with his legs and hands bent like a cockroach stuck on its back. He was gloveless and barefoot with toe nails like bear claws, god that made me feel a bit sick just writing that. But the point is we were freezing, and he had enough random bits of junk to make some shoes or socks but he had them bare to the elements. The Chinese are resilient buggers!!