Hello from Huangshan China. I am not sure where this is, but here I am. I believe Huangshan is in the southern part of China.
I have not mentioned how many people I am traveling with and where they are from. We are a group of ten photographers plus Andy, Kevin and Michael. Michael is the local photographer and knows the best places and shots when we arrive at those places. Andy and Kevin mingle amongst the group answering questions and help us with whatever we need and want. There are five women and five men. Nine Americans and one Canadian. Kevin is also Canadian. The group is mostly from the West Coast and three of us are from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey. I am glad to say that I am the second oldest of the group. Only Daisy is older than me and not by much. Time and energy move to quickly. We must cherish the moments.
My day started at 3 AM. Set my iphone and tried to sleep. Kept on tossing and turning in the guest house at Jinshanling. Finally at about 3 AM got up, dressed, and packed my camera gear. Went down to the lobby to get some coffee and meet everyone. We were going on one hour hike up to the Great Wall, at another location, to shoot the morning lights. This was quite a hike. The Great Wall is all situated on top of mountains and slopes through the mountains from peak to peak. There are towers between the various walkways. The towers are two to three stories high and used to house soldiers on guard. They would live there and always be available all day and night. There are also viewing towers separate from the Great Wall where soldiers would look to see who was invading and how many invaders there were. Michael said they would warn the other soldiers via torch light and the number of consecutive lights would be approximately how many invaders there were. Five lights in a row meant that over 10,000 invaders were approaching. The hike up was very strenuous. We were at first gradually going up hill until we got off the paved walkway. We then followed a path through the shrubs and trees until we reached the top. This part of the hike was almost straight uphill with almost no gradual incline. I was panting, sweating and out of breath as I reached one of the towers. We were the only ones there and the scene was sort of spooky. Of course, I had my sherpa from yesterday carrying all my camera gear. Two cameras, three lenses and a tripod where all packed in my backpack that she carried all the way up. She also helped me climb up by holding my hands constantly and making sure that I did not fall. I could not do this without her. It was then onto the Great Wall to set up and watch for the first signs of the morning light. As the scene got lighter, I was amazed by the pictures in front of me. Kept on clicking and taking pictures as I walked around to get different views and angles. How magnificent the Great Wall is. How many people built it and what did it take? I could only imagine. I walked over stones, through towers and top and down steps that were over one thousand years old. I feel so lucky to have seen this spectacle at this location. I want to thank my beautiful wife Olivia, who I miss very much, for holding down the fort at home and my daughter for holding down the business end of my life. They have both given me the opportunity to experience this truly amazing spectacle. No people with just us and the Great Wall. I didn’t care that my legs, feet and back were aching and that I had almost no sleep. I have walked on the Great Wall of China and taken pictures of its magnificence. We all walked toward another section and tower to go back to the Guest House and a well deserved breakfast.
When we arrived at the Guest House I gave the sherpa a nice tip for a job well done. She thanked me by giving me a beautiful book of this part of the Great Wall and a beautiful tee-shirt. All the locals at Jinshanling were so nice and friendly. They were the sort of people I hoped I would meet in China. My sherpa could not speak English but we both communicated well together.
Breakfast was basic and good. The food at the Guest House was all first rate, fresh and excellent. It was then back to my room to nap and take a hot shower. I curled up in my bed, under the covers and fell asleep trying to heal my aching muscles as fast as I can. Woke up at around 10:30 for a hot shower. We were leaving at 12:30 and being served lunch at 11:30. Have you ever taken a shower while sitting on the potty? I did. No shower stall nor tub. Just a hose with a drain in the middle of the bathroom. The water was hot and I just sat and stood under the soothing hot water.
Lunch was excellent. Various dishes of beef, chicken, shrimp and dumplings. Its almost the same food all the time with different variations and spices. Of course, soup is always served. I had lots of coffee as I tried to wash my grogginess away.
It was then a three hour bus drive back to Beijing Airport to fly to Huangshan. The Chinese go through all your carryons with a fine tooth comb. They make you take out all your cameras, lenses and accessories. Just a long process and complaining serves no purpose. Andy, Kevin and myself found Starbucks and had our fix. Trying to get free wifi in Beijing Airport is like trying to set up WeChat. Impossible. I finally asked a young Chinese man if I could share his hot spot and he gladly consented.
We all boarded our Air China flight for a two and one half hour flight to Huangshan. Huangshan means Yellow Mountain. More on that tomorrow and why we are spending three nights on top of Yellow Mountain. When we finally arrived at the hotel, we were all given day bags to pack three days worth of clothes. We will be leaving our luggage at the hotel in Huangshan and traveling up to Yellow Mountain with our day bags and camera gear. I don’t know what to expect and see. Yellow Mountain has been as described as Heaven on Earth. Have seen some pictures from there and I was awestruck by them. Stay tuned.