Mountains, Monkeys & Sore Feet

And just like that, our week off is over! Why does a break from work always go so quickly? We’ve been spending the last few days totally relaxing after our mini vacation to Zhangjiajie because we did a LOT of walking – over 20KM on day 1 and about 15KM on day 2. My feet were killing me but they’ve definitely recovered now, thank god. If you’d like to find out about our trip and see some awesome photos (if I may say so myself 😉) keep on reading!
Our flight from Guangzhou was quick and easy – only 1 1/2 hours. As soon as the plane reached altitude we were descending again in no time, which is actually quite annoying on Chinese airlines as they make you turn all electronic devices off about 40 minutes before landing. Because apparently my kindle could bring a plane down.
It took around 1 hour from landing to get to our hotel and the journey was like being in an episode of Wacky Races (remember that cartoon??). Once we were off the motorway the road was only 2 lanes wide along steep cliffs and coaches were over taking each other like crazy, cars were darting in and out in-between them when they got the chance and people just seemed to be stepping out into the road without a care in the world – though it’s a bit like that in Guangzhou, anyway! 
The town itself (a little place called Wulingyuan) was lovely but a little bit boring as there really wasn’t much around despite the National Park. I can’t quite put my finger on it but the general feel of the place was just a bit.. odd. We got talking to 2 English guys one day while we were walking and they said the same thing! It was a pretty place though. Don’t you think this photo looks like it could have been taken in a village somewhere in the Alps? Minus the snow, of course. I think it’s the mountains in the background and the wooden facade of the buildings. I must add that I’ve never been to the Alps so I’m basing my mental image on postcards and movies!! 

The main part of the town called Xibu Old Street was very picturesque and seemed quite traditional, but I can’t help thinking the buildings were actually new and built in an old style for tourism purposes. Either way, we enjoyed walking around and soaking in the scenery which was beautiful.

We also came across several stalls selling what I think is similar to peanut brittle.

There’s a mixture of nuts in it and I’m not sure what binds them together but I can tell you it tasted amazing – so good that we went back on our last night to buy a few more bags of it to bring home! Hunan food is known to be pretty spicy but what we tried – despite burning my mouth – tasted really good. We ate at the same restaurant 2 out of the 3 nights we were there and had roasted duck, beef with shredded potatoes (so spicy and strangely sour), celery in some kind of garlic sauce and a steamed bun with condensed milk for pudding because I’m a lover of steamed buns.. and carbs.

On both of the days that we spent at the park we were awake by 5:45AM to make sure we arrived as it opened at 07:00AM. Zhangjiajie National Forest Park was the first to be recognised in China in 1982 and was officially recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site 10 years later. The quartz-sandstone pillar like formations found across the park are a result of many years of physical erosion from water, ice and the plants that grow on them. We would be walking along a beautiful path alongside a stream, watching the wild monkeys terrorising other tourists and suddenly remember to look up at these incredible statues. They were truly breath taking and like nothing I’ve ever seen. From some of the view points at the top of the mountains everything was covered in a light mist which made it look as if there was a screen in front of you and the pillars were painted onto it.. a strange way to describe it, but they just didn’t look real. 
I’d read that the main vantage points could get a little crazy so our aim was to see those places but to also choose the paths nobody else was taking, and that paid off big time. Twice we ended up on trails that were so quiet and took us to the most incredible, deserted areas. The temperature at the top of the mountains was perfect, warm but slightly chilly and the air was SO FRESH!! After being in a hot, humid city for so many months I’d almost forgotten how it feels to take a deep breathe of cold air.. it was so refreshing. 
The park is a little cheeky in the sense that buses up to trails and the main areas are free but if you want to come down any way besides a lot of steps built into the side of a gigantic mountain (we walked up one on the first day, my legs have never burned like that before) you have to pay for either a cable car or an elevator ride. Not to grumble, because the cable car offered amazing views and we got some great footage on our GoPro, but the price wasn’t so cheap. The elevator on the other hand was pretty impressive, standing at 362 metres high (that’s taller than The Shard in London!) and transporting passengers from the bottom to the top in less than 2 minutes. It holds 3 Guinness World records: the world’s tallest full exposure outdoor elevator, the world’s tallest double deck sightseeing elevator and the world’s fastest passenger elevator with the biggest carrying capacity. I never thought’d I’d be able to claim I’d been on a record breaking elevator before (how many times did I just say ‘elevator’?? Too many.) 😂
We were so impressed with the effort to keep the entire park clean, too. There were rubbish bins absolutely everywhere – though some naughty monkeys would rifle through for something to eat and leave wrappers and bottles littered all over paths – and an army of cleaners. We were on an empty path climbing thousands (not exaggerating) of steps and hadn’t seen anybody for at least an hour, when we suddenly spotted a guy coming back down the steps ahead of us with his broom and a litter picker. Insane! Despite their best efforts though, we did unfortunately come across a few people deliberately throwing litter off the edges of cliffs and into bushes. I can’t even fathom why anyone would do that, especially in a place so naturally beautiful, not to mention the bins everywhere.
Since we felt so exhausted by day 3 we decided to cut our trip short and head home a day early. We’ve never done something like that before but we’d already conquered everything we’d planned to in way less time than we thought we would need so it seemed silly to stay. We enjoyed relaxing back in Guangzhou (it’s nice and quiet in the city when everyone else is at work 😉) and even went to the museum – FINALLY – to see the Titanic exhibition I’ve wanted to visit for months. It was really interesting and there were loads of artefacts on display so I’d say it was worth the wait.

Yesterday (Sunday) we went to Haizhu Wetland Park for a walk, because we haven’t done enough of that lately, which was a lovely way to spend a few hours and it was something we’ve had on our “to see” list for quite a while. On our way there it started chucking it down and of course I’d forgotten to bring my umbrella. It continued to rain once we arrived so we huddled together under a tree until a lovely woman hurried over and held her umbrella over our heads. Other than “thank you” we couldn’t have a conversation with her so the three of us stood silently listening to the rain for a while before we decided it had stopped enough to keep walking. It was so touching that she saw us getting drenched and decided to help keep us dry.. something that I think will always stay with me. 
Now that we’re back to work our trip home at the end of this month is keeping me going!! I’m so excited to see all of our family and friends, best get planning to fit it all in 😃.
I hope you have a wonderful week! XO


1 Comment

  1. jujmental
    October 3, 2017 / 3:18 pm

    Another great read Hannie, it’s incredible to catch up with all of the amazing things you are doing, things that I, and lots of other people – can only really dream about. Looking forward to having you home for a few days. Love you lots xxxx

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