Zhangjiajie. Our Final Day. Hunan Province, China.
Parking our minibus, we started the journey, striding along over wide, shallow steps, and although they were easy to walk up, it was a long trek and hard going in the humid heat.
Then we crossed the road and we had to climb up a lot more steep steps. A lot!
I honestly found it hard, especially after my large breakfast, and I wondered why we were going up and up to visit a lake! Surely it should be a flat walk?
Finally reaching the top though, it was a scene that made you gasp – and not just for breath!
The view of the lake is everything that you’d expect to see in China, and more!
I’m sure that if I’d been transported there by aliens, I’d have guessed which country I was in!
Emerald green water is surrounded by trees and shrubs in countless colours. Never mind 40 Shades of Green. It’s more like 400!
Baofeng Lake has been a World Heritage site since 1992. It’s 85 mts above ground level, and 72 mts deep. It covers 15 hectares.
Looking at the lake and its surroundings, I should imagine that it’s an ancient volcanic crater, and that’s why it’s so high up.
The water hardly moved, and with the dawn-like light filtering down between the mountains, I felt that I was in another world, far far away from all the troubles of 21st Century life!
No wonder that Chinese art is so different to any other. It made me wish that I was an artist, recapturing what I could see with just a few brush strokes.
Large wooden boats take the tourists for a trip round the lake. They look as though they’re flat-bottomed. (The boats, not the tourists!)
As soon as we’d boarded our boat, a group of women asked if they could have their photo taken with me. Oh the joys of being the only British lady for possibly thousands of miles! I had my Andy Warhol Five Minutes of Fame several times!
Luckily we didn’t have to go back the way that we’d come. We dodged along through the throngs, past all the stalls and their brightly-coloured souvenirs, then down some more steps, slowly because of the crowds in front of us, to a central area where we could see the Befeng Waterfall ribboning down the rocks.
Then it was back on our minibus and an eight km drive to our next stop; Huanglong Cave.
Although it’s a fairly recent discovery, the Chinese have already woven a myth around it, about a Dragon King. His palace is there.
Covering a total area of 48 hectares (120 acres), the cave system extends to 15 kilometres (9.3 mi) in length and is divided into dry and wet levels. There are four levels, thirteen chambers, three underground waterfalls, two underground rivers, three pools, ninety-six passages, as well as an underground lake. The largest chamber in the cave is 4,000 square metres (43,000 sq ft) and the highest of the three waterfalls is 50 metres (160 ft) high. The guided tour through the cave lasts about two hours and includes a boat ride down one of the underground rivers. The stalagmites and stalactites are amazing, all completely different, and the colourful lighting gives you a feeling of being inside the Dragon King’s grotto, like an Oriental Santa Claus.
After the boat ride in the cave, we walked up and along and up and along and down and along and up… but you get the gist of it!
As Wikipedia says, it’s a two hour tour. And remember that this was straight after the lake! It’s also quite high up, which doesn’t help your breathing.
All the caverns are massive, so you don’t feel claustrophobic at all, and the temperature’s pleasant.
On the way down, I counted nearly 700 steps – and that’s with a lot of walking in between!
Once you start, there’s no way to cut short your journey. And it’s definitely not suitable for disabled people.
There was also a shortage of seats, and no loos.
Would I do it again? No, but it’s worth seeing once, if you’re reasonably fit.
Glad to be outside again, we drove to the small town of Huangshi, or Yellow Stone Village, for lunch. It’s also known as the Farmers’ Village.
This was what I’d been looking forward to; traditional Hoo Nan Cuisine in an authentic restaurant.They’d prepared dish after dish for us, all served at the same time.
It was nothing like any Chinese restaurant that I’ve ever been in, anywhere else in the world. The food is very spicy, and some of it has a lot of chillis in it, which can take you by surprise. But it was delicious! And they all seemed to really enjoy having us there, tucking into their food.
After saying our goodbyes we drove back to Zhangjiajie, in the town centre. And there, we caught the longest cable car in the world! It stretches for 7km, and at the end of the journey, it shoots up to 1400mts high to the top of Tianmen Mountain!
It’s a marvellous feat of engineering. Goodness knows how they erected those great huge pylons where they are!
We glided along, just above the treetops for miles.
In the distance we could see the big hole in the rock, known as the Heavenly Gate. Then suddenly, up we went, almost vertically, to the top.
Tianmen Mountain is famous, among other things like its views, for the Plank Walk, which is a glass-floored walk around a curve of the mountain.
I didn’t do it, I’m sad to say. I wasn’t afraid of the view through the ground; I just hated all the crowds who were hovering there. I’d have had to walk on the outside, past the rather inadequate fence between the path and the drop over the edge.
As you know, Dear Readers, I’m not very fond of ‘elf & Safety, but, oh how I wished that there was someone there with a high-viz jacket and a hard hat on, making people move on!
I sat on the seat, watching the non-stop parade of people walking past me. I was impressed to see a group of half a dozen blind people, with their hand on the shoulder in front, marching along. No fear there, because they couldn’t tell the difference between 1400mts high and ground level!
We carried on walking towards the cable car, around the outside of the mountain. On the narrow curving path a lot of us froze and found the going difficult.
I told myself that I was being silly as I was holding on to the wall and tree branches, and I was on a perfectly good path. But the mock-rustic fences were too uncomfortably open and low for my liking and the drop was a VERY long way down!
Back on a wide bit, I was able to admire the stunning view. And stunning it is!
We managed to finally battle our way through the crowds onto the cable car again.
Calling briefly into the hotel to freshen up, we then drove to the airport to catch our flight to Beijing.
The muscles were beginning to complain loudly about their day’s exertions.
Our Beijing hotel was very good and they’d put us up in suites, with a lounge downstairs and the bed and 2nd bathroom up a flight of open-plan wooden stairs..
After a lovely meal, I somehow struggled up the stairs on my hands and knees, hauled myself into bed, and lost consciousness as soon as my head hit the pillow.
Apparently, one of the men couldn’t manage it, so he slept on the sofa!
In the morning, we had a ten-hour flight back to Heathrow, and not surprisingly, I think we all spent a lot of it fast asleep!