What was the last day like on top of the Yellow Mountains? Started the day when my iphone woke me up at 3:20 AM for the 4 AM meet. We all met in the lobby for some coffee and our loyal porters were there promptly waiting for us. I am feeling sorry for these porters. They are older men and the job they perform is hard. Younger Chinese will not do this sort of work anymore. We left the hotel and walked straight up to one of our previous locations and then at least ten minutes beyond that point. As we ascended, the fog got thicker. I started to wonder what am I doing here when a soft bed was waiting for me back at the hotel. We finally reached our destination and we split up into two groups. I went with the group that hiked some more. We finally reached our viewing point and the fog was even thicker. We just sat around and talked to wait and see if the fog would lift. Guess what? The fog even got thicker. We then decided to walk back to the hotel. As we reached near the hotel, the fog lifted and we were able to take some good images of the view points around the hotel.
It was then time for the standard Chinese breakfast. Oh how I crave for some American food. The Chinese have a great time eating breakfast yelling (talking) to each other. At breakfast we were told that there would be two hikes today. One hike would start at 2:30 and go to locations and peaks we had not seen. The total duration would be approximately five hours and we would return to the hotel at around 8 PM. The only problem is that it is a very strenuous hike with many uphills. The other hike would be around the hotel to take sunset pictures. A nice easy hike compared to the other one. Most everyone knows me by now. I took the 2:30 strenuous hike. Half of us went on that hike. Of course, I was the oldest one by far.
But first I had to crawl up to my room, curl into bed and get some well deserved sleep. I first called my beautiful wife Olivia and told her I missed her. I have been away since May 6 and everything is starting to get to me. The food and packing and unpacking constantly. Furthermore, I have had very little time for moping. Woke up at 11:30 and went down for lunch.
Of course, lunch was the same food, over and over again. I need help eating. Cannot eat the food anymore. What I won’t do for a New York City bagel and smear.
The crazy group met at 2:30 for the five hour strenuous hike. Porters were there. I had a cappuccino first. A small cappuccino costs about $6.30 and Andy gets a three shot expresso that costs $12. I knew I was in trouble when shortly after leaving the hotel we started to climb. I cannot describe how much we climbed up old stone steps. It seemed almost forever when we finally arrived at a pagoda like pavilion for a five minute rest to collect our thoughts and breath. We all sat down on the stone rails including the porters. Before I knew it, it was time to move on. I could barely get up and felt my back crack as I got up. I was thinking, how could there be anymore steps? Low and behold there were lots and lots more with almost 90% of them going up. We finally reached our first of three locations. The outcropping and viewing points were near a satellite station with a large antenna. Was the view worth it? As we ascended, I asked Michael to please confirm that we would not be disappointed after making such an enormous effort. We were not disappointed. The views were outstanding. I walked around sizing up the location and looking for my shots. Climbed over some boulders to a nice spot and clicked away. We were about 6000 feet up. I bought a cute baseball hat with Yellow Mountains China written in Chinese on the cap. It was then onto our second location. More steps up with less steps temporarily down. We then arrived at that location and I walked up a narrow stone corridor of steps onto a viewing platform. The rolling hills and clouds created a beautiful view of the area. We even saw the cable car under us as we took some more shots. It was then onto sunset. Andy wanted to stay at this location since the light was that good. Michael insisted that we all follow him. More steps up to our third and final view point for sunset. I set up my tripod and clicked away. I was standing next to Andy. A Chinese woman with a tripod tried to inch her way in front of us. Andy stood his ground and told the woman he would not move after spending so much effort getting there. A well deserved comment and job well done. The sunset was so beautiful and combined with these beautiful granite peaks and clouds, created a beautiful and unique landscape. We kept shooting until around 7 PM.
Time to leave. I kept on thinking that we will be descending most of the way and it should be a piece of cake. Oh how wrong I was. It seemed harder for me going back down than up. The steps seemed steeper and it was also easier to fall down descending. My porter eventually grabbed my arm as the darkness came around us. I couldn’t believe how many steps we had climbed going up. My legs and back ached. I was proud of myself. I had not let this hike defeat me. I conquered it and lived to tell the tale. At 69, I had climbed up and down the Yellow Mountains of China with the best of them.
We finally arrived back at the hotel at 8 PM. Andy told us to all meet for dinner in five minutes. Of course, dinner was more of the same. By this point, I did not care anymore. I needed some food and helped myself to some of the dishes. Andy then told us that we would be meeting at 4 AM for another sunrise hike and shoot. We are leaving the hotel at 7 AM tomorrow for a day of travel. I decided that I needed to do a little bit of moping and resting and told Andy I would pass on the morning shoot and meet them for breakfast at 6 AM. At 7 will will then descend to the cable car, then to the public bus and then to our own bus for a four hour ride to Hangzhou and then a two and one half hour flight to Xian. Andy promises a much better hotel with hopefully a great American breakfast. I am really looking forward to this four hour bus ride. A chance to catch my breath and do some serious napping.
Why go to Xian? Xian is home to the Terracotta Army. I have always wanted to see and photograph the Terracotta Army. My opportunity is coming. Stay tuned. I can hardly wait to see this amazing discovery and present the Army through my eyes and camera.