Castle in the sky

After being hounded by the crowds in Hongcun we decided to head heavenwards. Into the mountains. Surely there the crowds would thin and we could serenely stroll and stride from peak to peak.

Where we successful? Read on…

We had decided to head to one of the most infamous mountains in China. Huangshan.

Have you ever seen those pictures of vertiginous javelins spiralling high into the sky, surrounded by a sea of clouds. The ground below a mere memory for those stalking the high peaks. Yes. Well, that is were we were heading… However, on this one occasion where I actually wanted some clouds, we had gloriously clear days. Hey Ho. Can’t (and won’t) complain.

To get the mountain meant an early start. Awoken before sunrise. Onto a bus. Battling bumpy roads to try and get desperately needed last minutes of sleep. Stop. Out. Another bus. And then steps. And steps and steps.

We plodded. We trudged. We tried to keep our head high and stride. Burning calves and flaming thighs. But we reached the top. Relief.
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And no… It wasn’t quiet. We had no where booked and we were getting worried about finding somewhere… Well, finding somewhere that we could afford! The mountain was expensive!!!

Just as we were losing hope and were (not seriously) contemplating camping (in minus degree temperatures) Joyce spotted a sign (in a supermarket) advertising accommodation.

And we had our home for the next couple of days… Complete with natural air conditioning! Oh yeah.

The rest of the day unfolded just wandering up and down up and down up and down more steps, soaking in the sights and trying to find a good spot for sunset.
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Unfortunately, as with so much of China the perpetual smog hung around the mountains and tainted the beautiful disappearance of the sun on just another day. But. Still. Seeing sunset from atop the monument of Huangshan was special.
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ALARM! Up early (again). No need to dress. Slept fully clothed.

Swing legs out of bed. Shoe on. Shoe on. Gloves. Hat. Scarf. Bundle out of door into the 4AM chill. Walk. Walk. Walk.

Sunrise. Moon-set.
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And then we had the great idea to go through the canyon…
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This meant a steady spiral down many, many steps that clung precariously to those javelins of rock that shot so high.
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Down and down and down we went to the valley floor. And then… Back up and up and up we went…

… Why did we do that again.

Quite simply the view!
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And we were alone. Into the canyon few seem to dare tread. Maybe they’re the wiser for it!

As we rose back up the steep stairways the sun continued its slow circling inspection of the mountain. In its shadows grand silhouettes appeared and disappeared.
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As the hours streamed by, the sun swung round and the miles we’d walked were but a memory in our minds (and weary legs). We were approaching the final leg of our journey.
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To return to our eyrie we had to cross a chasm.
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As we crossed the bridge, spanning the granite peaks, thousands of metres above the ground, we felt we were truly home in our castle in the sky.
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And so the afternoon and evening we spent relaxing and reading and rejuvenating spent muscles.

As another day dawned it was time to leave and return to the – down down down – of the steps.

Then the bumpy buses.

Then a proper rest?

Nope. It was off the mountain and then onto a train. A night train that would drop us, rather unceremoniously, in our next destination at 3.30 in the morning…

… But. We’d be ready!
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