Hongcun excursions and Huangshan

The over-saturation of beauty in Anhui

우리 네이버블로그에서 업데이트 많이 있어요!!

On our day off from working at the Qingheyue Inn and Hostel, we decided to village hop in the surrounding Yixian (County). Eschewing the buses and taxis, we took the back exit of the village and started walking. Around a few bends, we were suddenly met with a wide valley of rapeseed flowers bursting into shockingly yellow bloom. A little sign pointed to Tiancui, a local village, so we followed the path. On our way, we saw only one aunty with a wee little boy and a few lazy water buffalo.
We never quite reached the village…we got distracted by a footpath that led up through a few little tea bushes and into a bamboo forest. Not another soul in sight, we had the whole serene hillside to ourselves. At the crest of the hill, the trees thinned out and the backside of the hill led us down…into the chicken coop of the tiniest hamlet…I think it was all one family! After stumbling out from their backyard, we walked along the dirt path back to a stream, which we followed back to the rapeseed fields.
Next, we made a little detour through a small gathering of houses along a canal, called Da-something, “da” is Chinese for big…but I didn’t know the second character. Not much there, except the cutest puppy. Ever.
However, I was still unsatisfied. What I really wanted to see was Mukeng, or the “Bamboo Sea.” Remember that insane bamboo top fight scene in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon”? Yep, same forest. That scene was one of the first movie scenes that had an impact on my sense of aesthetic…when I was impressed in an artistic way, rather than entertained. So I was not ready to give up this idea easily. Which was good, because we hiked uphill for 8km, getting more spectacular views of the valley below…but no sign of a bamboo forest. Finally we reached a tunnel. With no lights and no proper walkway and buses screaming through at high speed. We almost gave up…but I insisted we just try this one last stretch. Into the darkened tunnel we went, and right at the exit…there it was!
Serene is a good word. Impressive. Hushed. Soothing. And practically empty. Swaying bamboo as far as the eye could see, marching up and over the mountains cupping the stream bed and narrow valley at the bottom. The village itself is a postcard of white and red houses, with those sharp black roofs, clinging vertically to a mountainside of bamboo. After we climbed to the very highest point of lookout, we had to climb down these terrifyingly steep, dangerously crumbling steps that were also covered with slippery bamboo leaves. And the handrails were loose and wobbly. Still, it was gorgeous. And after 25 of hiking that day, we managed to flag a three wheel taxi car home.
That was Sunday. Thursday morning, we left Hongcun and Yixian beauty behind, and we headed to Huangshan. It took a lot of confusion and two buses, but we arrived at the foot of the Eastern Steps. Now all we had to do was climb. 6.5km of stairs. It was a chilly, cloudy day, and as we climbed into the clouds, it seriously cut down on the visibility. We saw a few quirky granite ridges and a smattering of twisted pines. We also saw the carriers, the men hired to carry food and building materials up and down the mountain. We also saw snow, which fell heavily for about ten minutes! But mostly, we saw stairs. As we finally reached the top of White Goose Ridge, we were met with a frigid blast of north wind. And more stairs. Apparently we had to climb clear up to Bright Summit in order to go back down to our hotel. Not much to see up there while we wre still in the cloud and it was bitter cold. We descended to our hotel and claimed our beds in our separate dorms.
The next morning dawned cold but very clear. We caught the hour-old sun over the Sea of Clouds back up on Bright Summit. Our original plan of descent, the Western Steps, was closed. So we had to go the more difficult way…crossing the entire set of peaks in the Jade Screen and Yuping parts of the mountain before we could descend to Mercy Light Temple.
However sore I was for days afterward, however exhausting the climbs, however chill the wind…it was worth it for the word-defying views we had from the trail. 15km of stairs, some up but mostly down. Cat shaped peaks, fish shaped peaks, lotus peaks, pan peaks….all in sheer granite with a few hardy trees clinging to the cracks. Each corner, each tunnel, each crest brought another surprise. I will stop trying to talk about something sublime. Huangshan’s reputation is deserved.
The last three hours that we spent going down down down were less spectacular visually, but they gave a lot of chances to reflect on the sights you just saw. And lots of time to think about how shaky our legs were becoming. As we went down, the season changed from winter back into spring…leaves and flowers reappeared and the wind tamed to a balmy breeze. Mercy Light Temple really was a mercy! We were so happy to have a seat!
Buses carried us back to Tunxi, where we waited for our train by taking a bicycle rickshaw ride, eating a huge meal, wandering through a local market, sitting in a hostel cafe, and getting a foot and leg massage for an hour. Ahhhhhh….
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2 thoughts on “Hongcun excursions and Huangshan

  1. I have really enjoyed reading your narrative of your trip to Mt Huangshan and the villages. We are doing this trip March 2015 🙂 We’ll be taking the cable cars though – don’t like the sound of all those steps!

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