I’ve only heard Huang Shan mentioned in zen talks. I confess that I rarely understand zen talks so I pick up on a few of the words and names. Places become familiar even though the stories are fables to me. Imagining the ancient teachers sitting in caves in the mountains has always been an image of mystery. We were headed there.
The gang got on a bus, our first bus ride of many and headed to Huang Shan. I hadn’t read the travel information we were provided so I vaguely knew that we were going up a tall mountain and had a lot of hiking to do. Maybe it’s a good thing that I didn’t read anything…that way I didn’t have to worry about all that hiking up the hill. We found out that we were going to leave our luggage at the hotel in Tunxi at the bottom of the hill. The bus would take us to the base of the hill, then a cable care goes part way up the mountain and we were going to walk up the rest of the way to the Xi Hia Hotel.
I had thoughts of the backpacking zen retreats I’ve done…always bringing too much and always the wrong things. Decisions had to be made. It was going to be relatively warm – 60 degrees. I guess i really didn’t need the fleece jacket with hood, fleece vest, AND rain jacket. IT’s pretty typical of the way I pack. Camera and equipment decisions needed to be made. Would we have power up there? We were there for two nights so we would need to download our memory cards and Kathy and I both would want to work on images. Hmmm. I’d already discovered that I got the wrong information about what adapter to bring from the Apple website. FYI, in China you need every adapter you can think of. Each hotel has a different outlet and some have several different ones in the room. It’s 220 volts so you need a voltage converter so you don’t fry your equipment…unless you have the Apple power cord.
We passed wonderful country scenes of tea and rice, people working the fields with water buffalo. The homes were of old stone with tile roofs in shades of gray and brown. I kept wishing that I could get the bus to stop and let me out for a day or so. Instead, I had to settle for “drive-by shooting”.
The cable car entry was clear and none of the anticipated crowds were around. We were able to board the cable car that offered us our first views of the Yellow Mountains – Huang Shan. These tall ancient mountains immediately inform you that they are ancient and wise. It’s easy to see how these mountains inspired the brush paintings that we see in museums. The walk up the mountain proved to be every bit as challenging as we expected. Many of us purchased walking sticks that were sold by locals along the way for a few yuan – well worth the purchase. Although the walk was made of granite steps, they seems to go straight up. Kathy and I decided that we both needed our laptops, our external hard drives, power cords, and she brought her tripod. We went light on clothing and wore the same thing for three days. It’s a good thing we were all in the same boat.
This was the first time of many that we saw the spirit of helpfulness and support in our group. Help in the form or encouragement, reiki, and assistance with sharing loads came whenever someone needed it.
Once we made it up to the top and checked in to our hotel, we stopped for a much needed and well-deserved foot massage. It was an amazing set up. I believe they were able to accommodate twelve of us at one time. The foot and leg massage was around $15 US. There was a Chinese doctor who treated some of the girls.
There was a point that everyone goes to watch the sunrise. I went with the group the first morning and was horrified to see around a hundred people up there. You had to crowd to the edge to get a viewing spot. Having done this before in Maui at Haleakala, I opted to head down the mountain and enjoyed a quiet walk with birds chirping and insects buzzing.
We did tons of walking up and down granite steps all over these mountains. It’s hard to imagine what it took to build them. We watched guys carrying supplies in and trash and dirty linens up and down these stairs. They didn’t use the cable cars, but hoofed it all the way. Everything comes in and leaves this way.
For me, the highlight of the mountains was a little side trip we took. We walked to another cable car from which the views of the mountain were the most spectacular we’ve seen. It was like being in an Imax movie. The pine trees growing out of the sides of the granite monoliths was something to behold. At our stop, we walked into a bamboo forest where Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon was filmed. A beautiful abandoned monastery had a well with a dark pool of cool water. We stopped to refresh ourselves in a river surrounded by pink granite with the sound from the water. The chatter suddenly died and we appreciated this spot in silence. We didn’t need to talk about it, we just all became silent at the same time. Awesome!
“How To Enjoy A Yellow Mountain