Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Day 3 in Wulingyuang (8th of September)

Rain poured down all night long and it was with great expectation that I opened the curtains only to find the area still shrouded in dense fog and the prospect of yet more sightseeing platforms with no sights to see. The rain continued and we came to understand why they call it subtropical rainforest. In hope that it might stop we found great amusement in the names of all the peaks. As a result of my Chinese diet and lack of balancing abilities I became ‘Pigsy looking in the mirror’ and ‘Ape afraid to climb cliff’. We couldn’t put off our departure any longer and donning waterproofs and grim smiles we headed out into it.

There was indeed no lookout from the lookout point behind the hostel and the steps to it were very slippery. Trying to find the shortest and most convenient route back to the park entrance we began our descent of the steps past “Beautiful ladies greeting generalissimo’ and the ‘Peacock spreading its tail’. There were over 2,500 steps, the ones near the top with good grip but nearer the bottom we found ourselves slipping and sliding all the time. To have made it to the park exit with four intact, although slightly achy, legs was rather miraculous. Our route passed two administrative offices and we were worried about our two day ticket being checked. We walked past them as quickly as we could without diving headfirst onto the concrete slabs. But it seemed like they weren’t open because of the rain (we don’t actually know if they check your tickets here but we were worried as people had mentioned having tickets checked in the park and even though lots of people have stayed for three days on a two day ticket we weren’t sure what they’d do if they did check it). Up until we got back to the Golden Whip Stream we’d only seen four other people which was quite a treat in this national park. In the valley tour groups were still making their way around, but the rain seemed to be diverting their attention from the foreigners. The Chinese don’t really seem to equip themselves for visiting the area, some wearing high heeled shoes and most carrying their umbrellas. A few purchase light blue or pink ponchos when they get there and discard them in the bins when they’ve had enough of them.

We saw another of the huge toads on the way down, our arrival there heralded by Jenny shrieking like a girl, followed by me some seconds later once I’d put my steamless glasses back on. Near the entrance, maybe because the rain had stopped, people wanted to start taking our pictures again whilst pretending to take pictures of each other or the landscape. Being very unsporting tourists we turned around and looked the other way. The rain had put us in no mood to smile sweetly for Chinese photos.

After a bit of pointing at the Chinese for Zhangjiajie city we found our bus back to the city’s bus station and our way through the streets back to the hostel where we could dry ourselves out. I found it hard to get to sleep. Every time I’d almost nodded off I would imagine myself sliding and slipping on the paving slabs of Wulingyuan and wake up with a start.

Friends this is natural oxygen bar (7th September 2010)

Our second day in Wulingyuan was spent mostly within the clouds. We took the free shuttle bus to the end of the road to lookout points without lookout. Once again we found ourselves as the main tourist attraction and when we bumped into the German couple again they shared their novel idea of perhaps paying a trip through China by getting people to pay to have their photograph taken with you. There were loads of people everywhere poking their umberellas all over the place and snapping our pictures. Now and then some cloud would clear and we would see more of the spectacular pinnacles of Wulingyuan. There were lots of stalls with people selling food and above all knick-knacks. Fresh from the field opposite came sweetcorn, which we couldn't resist, as well as some delicious mini kiwis.

Deciding to head for a walk down a rice filled valley, we took the bus to a spot which was rather deserted, but for a donkey and a few stallholders. As we walked down a small road we discovered a man pushing a rather long snake out of the road. Unfortunately we couldn't find the footpath, only a derelict looking place where all the buses were kept and bus drivers seemed to live. Instead we decided to take the bus a bit further on, walking down hundreds of steps to a small village and then up narrow steps on the other side to lookouts, pickled snake, suspension bridges and a sign reading 'Friends, this is natural oxygen bar'.