Catching the Sea of Clouds-Hiking West Sea Canyon

Trip Start Jul 22, 2011
Trip End Aug 12, 2011

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Flag of China  , Anhui,
Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Our eyes are barely open at 5:15 AM when we walk to the Dawn Pavilion for the 5:30AM sunrise.   We became two of several hundred others in this small area.  This clearly is the thing to do on Huangshan.  We proceed along the path in search of an open view with less people.   Harvey is thinking it can't possibly be worth it but we proceed.  We find another viewpoint and we are standing back in the crowd when Harvey reminds me that we are in China and then I go into my gentle pushing and elbow routine, saying "excuse me".  People let me through and I hear someone say “English”.  I now have a prime spot for photos.  Everyone gasped when the sun rose over the horizon.  Harvey spoke with another American in the back who was taking photos by holding up his arms over his head so his camera was above the crowd. Harvey asked him how long he has been in China and he said one week.  Harvey cued him into the gentle art of pushing and shoving.

As soon as the sun rose, there was a wave of people departing the area.  Now the path is clear and we proceed up towards Lion Peak and found a lookout over the famed sea of clouds.  Just gorgeous!   Wow!  I cannot believe that we are fortunate enough to hit the weather just right to see them.  To get a really good photo, I chickened out from climbing on a boulder, but Harvey was game.  Here he captured some terrific mountains and clouds photos.  He met some young French travelers and did some translation from French to Chinese.  I get such a kick out of him being able to have these kinds of conversations! 

After breakfast we head upwards to Bright Top.  I guess the name gives the hint that this is going to be an uphill hike.  Just like yesterday, we walk on stone stairs that have been manually constructed of stone rubble and larger stones.  All the materials have been carried up the mountain by hand.  We pass a few areas where there is some maintenance being performed and we see the bags of supplies.  It’s hard to wrap our minds around the effort it took to build and to maintain what we so casually walk on.

The steps follow the contour of the mountain and that means walking up and down, up and down.  Some areas are more steep than others, but that pre-trip training on the stair master is paying off.  People of all ages are here on Huangshan.  They may be huffing and puffing, but they have come and are doing it.  It seems extraordinary to us to see elderly people here.

It is absolutely jammed at Bright Top so we proceed to our Baiyun Hotel.  We check in and for the first time are asked to give a 100 RMB cash deposit for the room in case of damage or theft.  We tell ourselves that we must remember to ask for this back when we check out tomorrow & I hope I remember where I put the receipt.  We go to drop off our stuff in our room and return to the lobby to find our guide.  Jessica negotiates a change in room since the one we had was not thoroughly cleaned.  Here is an advantage of check-in around lunchtime, as most rooms had not been assigned yet and we were given a choice of several rooms.  Our next one was clean, so we dropped off one backpack, had lunch and left for our afternoon hike.

We hike on West Xihai Grand Canyon as far as Fairy-walking Bridge.  Beyond that point, the trail is closed for maintenance.  Jessica says that no one knows when it will reopen.  We don’t know if this means months or years.  At some point, the stairs are a steep down hill and we will be re-tracing our steps back up again.  Jessica says she will wait for us and we proceed down, down and further down.  When we arrive at Fairy-Walking Bridge, there is a viewing platform at this beautiful spot.  It would definitely rate as a Kodak photo op.  A family has set up a tripod with a timer to take their photo and the husband is running as quickly as he can to the bridge to be in the photo.  Harvey goes over and takes photos of them.  They offer to take photos of us and email them.  We are appreciative.  Harvey speaks Chinese and the wife speaks some English and somehow we manage to communicate! 

The views on this portion of the Xihai Grand Canyon are spectacular.  It is probably also extra special that it is so lightly used.  We thoroughly enjoy this afternoon!

At dinner, we see the family we met at Fairy-walking Bridge.  They motion to us and we join them at their table.   Harvey tells the waiter (in Mandarin, would you believe) that we will be moving to another table.   Somehow we manage to communicate and have a good time in the process.  Everywhere we have been in China, people have been friendly.  The Chinese are very proud of their country’s accomplishments.  They feel life is better.  At some point, the husband snuck off and paid for our dinner.  That was very gracious of them! 

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