We left Yangzhou 7:30PM and arrived in Nanjing about an hour later. Our connecting train to Huangshan left at 10:40 PM and arrived around 4:40AM. Linda, Will and I shared a four-person sleeper cabin. There was no forth. By 5:30 we were en route to Huangshan Park.
A 70 minute bus ride followed by a 10 minute taxi ride took us to the bottom of the chairlift. After waiting in line we were at the top by around 8 when we started our 1 hour trek to the hotel.
When Linda suggested that we bring a backpack with us to China so that on this leg of the trip we wouldn't have to carry all our luggage I didn't fully internalized why this might be. Her suggestion was that we take only what we need and keep the rest with the hotel in Shanghai.
Thirty minutes in, the true nature of the trek was coming into full view. The trails are all paved, in some places with stone in others with concrete, with steps being preferred over inclines. The trails are very hilly so there are a lot of steps, which put a lot of stress on my knees.
After checking in we proceeded on a long march that started around 9:30AM and ended around 4:30 and covered about 13 km. But more than the horizontal distance was the vertical one which I'm sure would be no less than 2km. A very arduous march, but may be in keeping with the country famous for long marches. However the views were spectacular and the paths breathtaking.
The day ended early with a quick dinner and a couple of aspirin.
Day two started with a 3:30 AM departure from the hotel lobby on a one-hour hike to the top of the summit to see the sunrise. Along the way we came across several tours heading to the same destination. The summit was a mad house of people jostling for position. While there was no place to set up my tripod I did find a tree branch to rest against. But in the end we had to retreat to a secondary position. We were the only ones there; refreshingly quiet as compared to the summit. But it became clear that the sunrise would be blocked so we made haste to a third position.
We arrived at the White Goose Hotel just minutes before the sun broke. I had time to set up my tripod, and focus my camera. I got the shots.
The learning here is find out where the tour groups go and try to avoid them. Where one goes they all go like lemmings. One gets the sense that there is a checklist of the points of interest to be seen and the tour operators share many of the same items and take you there regardless of the value you might get out of it. The operator has achieved his goal and got you to the summit. The fact that there are 20 other tours up there fighting for the very few good spots is not considered relevant.
So the second learning is know your options and the alternatives. Pick those where the tours don't go.
When my son told his Chinese colleagues that he was going to Huangshan without a tour they were shocked saying it was too dangerous to go alone. This point of view may explain why there so many tour groups.
After breakfast we started on a less aggressive walk. The day started off with the sun but by mid morning there was fog and rain. We were well prepared with rain gear so this change presented only opportunities to get some fog pictures.
Our third day started at 4:00AM with the three of us marching to Lion's peak to witness another sunrise. We came across a much fewer number of tour groups and while less of a commotion than the summit it was still hard to find a good spot to set up my tripod. But this may have been a blessing in disguise as I ended up taking shots from four locations.
The sunrise seems to take on the emotion of a religious event where people jostle for position--the best pews-- with an abnormal zeal to see the Sun. When the first light breaks the tension rises, punctuated with a chorus of anticipation. As the sky lightens the murmurs grow to
the first break of the sun through the mist and clouds. The minutes before the break the tension gets the best of some and finally when the sun breaks through there is a chorus of cheers of rejoice; hallelujah. The is followed by a series of portraits of people holding the sun in one hand, two hands, the Atlas pose and many others. The the congregation then leaves the chapel of the sunrise
Click on Slideshow to see more pictures from Huangshan.