Spring arrived late March and we decided to go on a trip, see some “China-stuff”.
The first weekend of April I had a long weekend off from work, so that would be the day!
We spend the week collecting everything we would need; a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping mats and so on.
We planned to go up the Yellow Mountain on Monday, camp up there and decent the following day, so we could see the ocean of stars during the light pollution devoid night and the magical sunrise in the crisp early morning.
The Boyfriend got train tickets and on Sunday we set off for the station, strangely looking forward to the twenty hour train ride.
When we entered our train and found our compartment we were overcome by the strong and sickening smell of urine. It made us feel uncomfortable, but we were able to cope.
Eventually we fell asleep on our bunks which were surprisingly comfortable.
The next morning, around five o’clock, we woke up in the heat of sleeping people around us and the smell of excrements which had grown to an enormous beast of putrid piss and shit wafting through the corridor from the toilets. I felt extremely dirty, afraid the smell particles had settled on my skin, in my hair and, worse even, in my longs.
The train had stopped at a station maybe an hour earlier and wasn’t moving. All I could think was getting the hell out of this train and into the fresh morning air.
Finally the train moved and the movement ensured a breeze that washed away most of the stink. Sitting by the window the beautiful landscape came rolling past us through the morning mist. Mountains, their peaks obscured in the distance, field patches with vegetables and flowers and a river winding through little villages. For a moment I felt we finally found a piece of China which wasn’t concrete pavement for human waste but something authentic. Not the flats and neon, not the cars and noise, but something real and beautiful… then I noticed the river beds were littered with garbage and field patches and gardens in much the same state.
The train rolled into the station where we got a bus-cab that brought us to Huanshan.
A very large crowd had already gathered at what we thought was the entrance to the mountain. We vaguely distinguished a line for a ticket booth, we joined in and bought a ticket (for the mountain we guested) and then joined the slowly shuffling crowd toward a big glass building.
After two hours (which felt like ten) of slowly creeping forward, we reached the building and found out the mountain entrance was in fact not there at all, instead it was a bus station.
We chose the bus going to the Yungu path, supposedly the easiest choice.
Up winding roads the bus took us to the mountain entrance surrounded by hotels, shops and an incredible amount of people.
It took us a while to find the actual entrance and another while for us to realise we had to pay to go up the mountain!
This was unforeseen and, at least in our opinion, ridiculous. We bought tickets and refused paying even more for a cable card half way up, “we are super heroes so we can take a mountain, no prob!”
After a few hours and what felt like a million stairs, this attitude shattered, realising we were nowhere near our destination and the 1860 meters up would be stairs, stairs and more stairs!
The superhero within me died a quick and painful death, “no way I would be able to get it done and I HATE HATE HATE stairs AND mountains!”
But going back was no option either, my pride prevented that as much as my Dutch cheapness (“I paid for it dammit!”).
So I opted for going on but fervently blaming The Boyfriend for my hardship, he in turn took it like the superhero he really is, helping me with my bag every time we almost reached our next pit stop and my pride was too tired to be anything other than grateful.
Slowly but very surely we crept up the mountain, this view more astonishing than the previous, while Chinese people laughed at our bags but who were secretly taking pictures.
Finally, being very relieved and proud of myself, we reached White Goose Ridge where we would camp out. Camping isn’t really allowed as far as we could figure out, so we found a relatively flat bit of ground off the path where we set up our tent as soon as the sun had set.
The night was uncomfortable to say the least, but we saw the ocean of stars divided by the stream of the Milky Way and survived the immense cold (although at some point during the night I feared dying stone cold and at another not being able to resist the strong urge to kill The Boyfriend for being so very restless, disturbing my cold slumber).
Around five o’clock in the morning we emerged from the shrubbery after packing up. It was still dark and very cold, but soon the rising sun coloured the sky; first dark indigo, changing to purple and all variations of red and orange. It was magical.
As soon as the colour show was over and the morning had returned to grey in the cold air, we started our decent… or so I thought…
We wanted to get off the mountain using the other path, but this proved more difficult than we had hoped. The path kept winding its way up!
By now I was quite sick of the mountain, all I could think of was a hot shower.
But we reached the top of the Lotus Peak at 1864 meters. And the view was breathtaking (although I didn’t want to admit just yet).
After reaching this point I though it would surely be down hill (down mountain more like) from now on, but the big heap of rocks had still so much more to give, so much more to offer and there was no way around it!
Going down the stairs, though seemingly easier than up the stairs, proved difficult. After a while our legs felt like rubber every time the path was horizontal and it became harder and harder to keep our balance. The walking stick I had the day before had broken under my exhausted weight, and would’ve been very helpful at this point in our journey.
Then, all of a sudden, the end was in sight! Coming though the trees we could see the plateau from which we had started the day before, happy and relieved (“we’ve done it!!”) we stumbled with our rubbery legs towards a bench, a cigarette was well deserved by now.
Two cigarettes later we went to yet another ticket booth for bus tickets, one to get down to the bus station and one headed for Shanghai. But to our bitter surprise we didn’t have enough money left for the bus-station-bus, MORE WALKING!
Well, having conquered the mountain meant we could walk a little more. Steps down and down and the lower we came the easier it became.
Having a rest at the end of the stairs (the real end this time) we saw something stirring in the shrubbery behind us, peering through the leafs and branches our eyes found a great surprise!
Quietly superhero Boyfriend approached them while I stood staring from the path. What a miracle, we had seen signs warning us not to “flirt” with monkeys and we had complained there weren’t any monkeys to be seen anywhere. The monkeys, however, were less happy to see us and finally The Boyfriend gave up. But reaching the path one of the monkeys approached us, stood there for a while as if modelling for a photo-shoot and then left.
At least two hours later we reached Huangshan from where our bus would leave. After dinner and a foot massage (we had found a cash machine) we felt almost human again getting in the bus.
Home sweet home, here we come!
Train ticket from Shangai: 175 RMB – 10 hours (there are different trains, this was a low quality soft sleeper)
Bus from the station: 10 RMB – 30 minutes
Bus to the mountain: 13 RMB
Ticket for the mountain: 230 RMB
Bus to Shanghai: 140 RMB – 5 hours