A Travellerspoint blog

Entries about mountains

Camping on the Great Wall

Wohushan Mountain, Gubeikou

sunny 27 °C

I've had another amazing weekend. My Mandarin school organised an overnight camping trip to a remote and non-restored section of the Great Wall. I figured that the trip would be a pretty unique experience but, in fact, it surpassed my expectations by [approx. 13,170] miles! We set off by bus around midday on Saturday and it took about 2 hours to get to the small village of Gubeikou, where we were abandoned by our bus driver on a concrete platform next to a railway line.

And then the adventure began.

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We spent around two hours climbing a very narrow and fairly treacherous path. Although it wasn't too physically taxing, most of the Wall in this area was basically in ruins, which meant that the rubble could be quite unstable and it was easy to lose footing, especially on the steeper sections. To add to the challenge, we were all carrying our camping supplies and food for the evening, as well as plenty of water, so our backpacks were heavy which made us unbalanced.

The weighty bags posed the most difficulty on the steepest parts of the Wall. When I say steep, I mean steep. At one point I was literally rock climbing; people were passing bags up to each other because it was too dangerous for us to climb with the bags on - the Wall was practically vertical. There were times when I was genuinely scared but overall, the climb up was an incredible experience and a great way to get to know the others who were on the trip with us.

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Along the Wall there are several watchtowers, which are all in varying states of disrepair. Each watchtower that we got to had a different and more spectacular view of our mountainous surroundings and we passed some other small hiking groups that had started to settle inside them for the night. As the sun started setting, we decided to stop at a watchtower that had a particularly difficult approach. It felt like such an achievement to have reached our camp! There are many little sections inside the watchtowers, which are two-storey structures, and Will and I managed to find a sheltered alcove, away from some of the more exposed spaces.

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After sunset, the wind was fairly strong and whistling through the crumbling structure, so a large group of us huddled in one of the dusty alcoves and set out sleeping mats to sit on. We sat around eating barbecued food and noodles, drinking and chatting by torchlight. It was so surreal and gradually the wind died down, meaning that the watchtower stayed surprisingly warm throughout the night. I was amazed at what a good sleep I had!

This morning, we got up for sunrise at about 5.50am. At first, it seemed as though it was too cloudy for us to really see anything, but at about 6.15am the sun emerged as a glowing, orange orb above the ruins of the Wall, which we could see stretching along the mountain tops for miles and miles. After packing away we started the hike back down. I was expecting the way down to be easier but we took a different route, which was essentially an overgrown path consisting mainly of loose rocks and boulders. Despite this, we descended surprisingly quickly (without any major casualties!).

At the bottom of the mountain, we carried on walking towards the nearby village where a small guesthouse had produced an incredible meal for us all, consisting of fish, pork, tofu noodles, vegetables and century eggs - an interesting Chinese delicacy). It was the perfect way to finish our rural escapades before heading back to Beijing's bustling streets.

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Thanks to the other happy hikers for sharing some of their photos

Posted by amysblog 04:43 Archived in China Tagged mountains hiking china beijing camping great_wall Comments (0)

The highs (and lows) of Zhangjiajie

Mountains and monkeys, caves and canyons.

semi-overcast 6 °C

Spring Festival is approaching which means that we Foreign Teachers have broken up for a whole SEVEN WEEKS - I had already had a week off before Will finished and spent it getting ready for travelling and doing a bit of preparation for next semester, as I’m fairly sure I will have forgotten how to teach after this adventure.

The first stop on our itinerary was Zhangjiajie, a mountain range in mid China, which is growing more and more famous, especially after parts of it were used to film Avatar. We have spent 3 days exploring this little part of the world and it has blown my mind... We arrived fairly late in the city on Sunday night and had ‘made friends’ with a group of women on the plane, one of whom insisted on dropping us at our hostel- something that would NEVER happen in the bigger cities. It was only a short car journey and when we arrived at the hostel, the staff were very helpful in terms of planning the next day. Unfortunately our room was a bit of a let down, it was huge but freezing, with no central heating and an aircon that didn’t work.

So after a chilly first night, we set off in search of the avatar mountains. The day got off to a rocky start because the journey from the city is fairly complicated, involving a public bus and then transferring to a minibus around the back of a bus station which isn’t really signposted and so it took us a fair while until we were settled into our minibus for an extremely bumpy ride up to the National Park. Luckily for us, we met two local Chinese girls on the minibus who happily let us follow them for the afternoon and so made our lives extremely easy. We did a 3.5km hike up to one of the lower peaks, it was a fairly cool day but with all the steps we were very warm.

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the mountaineering team

On the way up, we encountered monkeys at various stages. Perhaps the most exhilarating part of the hike was a monkey attack. It was all because of a lollipop that one of the girls had given to me. Out of nowhere, a pack of monkeys came racing from higher up the mountain and headed right for me. One of them was trying to climb up my leg and so I had to launch the lollipop into the foliage in a bid to save myself and the others. Luckily, we all survived, but I was a lot warier about eating from there on...

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views ft. monkey

When we reached the top, we were absolutely astounded by the views, even though the visibility wasn’t fantastic, it really was beautiful. However, it was nothing in comparison to the views we experienced two days later upon our return to the park, when the weather had improved.

On the day between our mountain visits, we went to the Glass Bridge and Grand Canyon. On the bus on the way up we met a nice German couple who had done a similar hike to us the day before and had also experience a monkey attack! Unfortunately the weather was still quite foggy so the views from the bridge weren’t great but we could still see quite a lot... I think it would have been terrifying had we been able to see right down into the canyon. We did walk part the way down to the canyon but the routes weren’t well sign posted and we were keen to also visit Huanglong Dong (Yellow Dragon Caves) so we decided to go back via many many many steps and cross the bridge again. We got to the caves which were absolutely enormous and we were taken by boat deep inside them, from where we followed a winding trail through huge tunnels and openings.

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Glass Bridge

That night we stayed in the small town of WulingYuan so we could get to the park earlier the next day - which was the day with the spectacular views. We started in the BaiLong lift which is a glass lift that goes up the side of the mountain. We used the buses to see more of the park and went up much higher, where the monkeys were friendlier and saw the Avatar Hallelujah Mountain. The best part of it was the Tianzi Mountain Peak. There were several viewing platforms which all, impossibly, seemed to offer an even better view that the one before. We spent ages absorbing the views and finding isolated viewing platforms, before we decided to walk down to the base in order to get a bus down to the city.

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On the way down, the Sun was setting as we headed into the increasingly dense forest which provided us with even more photo opportunities! We also met some other Brits on the way down who we got on the same bus back to the city with. It was nice to chat to some other people doing a similar thing to us and distract us from the intensity of the descent. The number of steps I climbed up and down that day have had a severe effect on my legs for the last few days.

On our last day in Zhangjiajie, we had planned to go to Tianmen Mountain which is south of the city and much closer, however due to restoration / bad weather / other unknown reasons, the mountain remained closed longer than anticipated so we were unable to go. The weather was bad anyway so instead we walked into the drizzly city centre for a look around. It’s a very strange place at the moment, obviously it is low-season, something that made our trip very enjoyable, but from the deserted open air bar areas I can imagine the city has a bustling centre during the summer. The scenery here has well and truly blown my mind but I think we are ready to leave Zhangjiajie, or at least ready to get to a warmer hostel!

Next stop Chengdu!

Posted by amysblog 08:07 Archived in China Tagged mountains monkeys nature hiking travel caves china Comments (0)

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