Before I start our day, I would like to go back a little to our visit to the Great Wall yesterday morning. As you already know, the section we visited is not touristy and it is quite difficult to get on top of the Great Wall from this location. I mentioned yesterday that it felt spooky. I want to expand a little on that. Imagine walking on the Great Wall almost by yourself in the quiet calm of the early morning. I must admit that I felt the spirits and presence of ancient Chinese soldiers guarding the Great Wall. There have been a few other sites that I have gotten this spiritual feeling from during the course of my travels. Two that come to mind are Chaco Canyon in New Mexico and The Killing Fields in Cambodia.
Now onto today. Last night I packed my day bag for our trip to the “Huangshan Mountains or the “Yellow Mountains”. We did we need to pack day bags when we could have just brought our luggage up the mountain to the hotel? The Yellow
Mountains are a national park and no vehicles are allowed in the park. How would our heavy luggage get transported up to our hotel? The only way is to come up with a day bag with just enough clothes for your stay. Not heavy and easy for porters to transport to the hotel by hand.
The day started at 8 AM when we left the beautiful Crowne Plaza hotel in Huangshan. The breakfast was a huge display of any food you could imagine and more. Our regular luggage, day bags and camera gear were all loaded into the bus. When ever I go on a photo trip, a huge bus is always used. Photographers have lots of gear and we all need at least two seats each and sometimes more.
Our first stop was Hongcun. Hongcun is a UNESCO world heritage site. The site is a old village that was built and restored using South Anhui architecture. Huangshan is located in the southern portion of the Anhui Province. On our drive to Hongcun we passed through very rich looking rice farms and other farms growing various fruits and vegetables. People were working the farms by using their own hands. I did not see any large machinery. So rich and lush. The green color popped out as we drove through this very fertile place. We walked through the village. People were selling all sorts of arts, crafts and food. There was a large pond in the middle of the village. A local was straining the pond for vegetation. My camera could not stop clicking. Also the town is built along the banks of a lake named “Nan Lake”. The reflections that you get from the town and its unique architecture is quite unique. There were lots of locals painting and drawing the structures in and around the village.
After lunch we started our journey to the Yellow Mountains. Our bus took us into a village where we stopped in a big parking lot. All of our regular luggage was unloaded and put into storage. Our day bags were then put on a separate small truck to be taken up to the end of the road. Porters would transport them from there to our hotel. We then carried our camera gear for about a ten minute walk into a large bus terminal. We then boarded a local bus with other people for the first leg of our journey. The bus had no overhead compartments and the bus did not leave until all the seats were filled. I had to hold my big and heavy backpack filled with camera gear on my lap with my leather attache case that had my laptop and iPad with all my charges and wires. A Chinese looking woman sat down next to me. She was from Taiwan and spoke passible English. She told me that she comes to China just to go to the Yellow Mountains. Michael, our local tour guide, told me that almost no foreigners visit the Yellow Mountains. The typical Chinese tours do not go here. The logistics and arrangements are hard and the hotels are not very modern. Our bus took us on a thirty minute drive through bamboo forests and over winding roads. The roads constantly drove up hill. We were then let out and walked with all our equipment, except for our day bags, for about fifteen minutes to a sky tram like the trams that you see in Ski resorts. We jumped on the cars as they drove by. Six in each car and then ascended straight up through some serious fog. The tram ride took about fifteen minutes and we all were met by our Sherpas. Thank god. How could I have ever lived without my own sherpa. The sherpa took my backpack and attache bag. We then started to ascend up old stone steps. After about five minutes, the heavens opened up. The rain was coming down in buckets. I got totally drenched. My raincoat was in my backpack and I kept on hoping that the rain would stop quickly since it was raining so hard. I guessed wrong. The rain kept on beating down on us as we hiked up more old looking stone steps. The Chinese describe the Yellow Mountains as “Heaven on Earth”. I wondered why? The mountains are granite. The top is about 5000 feet above sea level and that is where our hotel is located. We finally reached the lobby. Besides being totally drenched, my legs and muscles were aching. My feet felt like the soles had walked over big pins. The sherpa took my gear and day bag up to my room. I would rate the hotel as three stars. Not fancy but OK. The name of the hotel is Bei Hai Hotel.
After changing clothes and unpacking my small supply of clothes on the other bed, the skies turned sunny. It was time to see what was so special about this place. Our sherpas met us in the lobby and we were off to take sunset pictures at one of the locations. We walked up and down steep and small steps. I could not do this without my sherpa. There were times when I had to stop and catch my breath. We finally arrived at our destination. I couldn’t believe what was in front of me. It seemed like the sky met the earth. There were huge rolling clouds under and on top of these large granite peaks and precipices. We all set up our tripods and set our cameras. The scene was amazing. The clouds would move and sweep over peaks sticking out of the clouds. The clouds looked like smooth water rolling in over the earth. Now I understand what the Chinese mean by “Heaven on Earth”. This is where heaven meets earth. The sky meets the earth. After the sun set, it was back up to our hotel and the hike was mostly uphill. My sherpa held my arm as we walked in the dark up small and wet stone steps.
Dinner was good, but of course, the same type of food served family style. What do you expect in China? Of course, Chinese style food served family style. After dinner I had to take a long foot massage given by a Chinese woman in hotel. She laughed as I purred. The massage was hard as she pounded on my soles, feet and muscles. It seemed like she was squeezing all the toxic waste out of my legs. I feel like a new man now with a step in my gait again.
We are getting up at 3:30 and meeting at 4 for the sunrise. Sherpas will get us in the lobby.