Friday, October 28, 2016

Sacred Mountain Moto Tour, Part 5

So I left Yangshou and, as planned, in order to protect the heavily loaded bike from breaking again on the bumpy Chinese roads I took the Expressway (which is not legal for motorcycles in most provinces). On the expressway I easily arrived at the town of Nanyue well before dark. Since this town is right at the foot of the Southern Mount Heng, I could just set out on foot from my hotel in the morning.

The lower part of the trail up Hengshan follows along side a stream with many small waterfalls along the way. This creates a sound bath all along the path which is named something like "Buddhist Music Garden":



Then the path joins the road which goes almost half way up the mountain. But it is only partway on the road as there are many exits onto walking paths that avoid the road with a constant stream of tourist buses (the sign says "Climb on foot")



As  usual there are little temples along the way, Here's one with a wall that has a lovely hobbit doorway in it:



And finally I reached the summit. You can just see the flames coming from the furnace on the right of the following photo. That is where people offer their sacrifice of incense. Now usually temples have an area where you can burn incense sticks and some people burn a few sticks at a time. Here I saw many people carrying a plastic bag full of many boxes of incense sticks. Well they would say their prayer and then toss the whole bag of incense in the furnace.



Also for a short time while I was at the summit, there was a break in the clouds. For a while we were actually between cloud layers so I got the heavenly view of the sea of clouds for which these mountains are famous.



On the way down I stumbled upon a path that went a different route, beside a stream that completely bypassed the road way I took up the mountain.

Next on the agenda is Huangshan (Yellow mountain) which is 900 km away. I had originally scheduled 2 days to do this trip, but with my new plan of using the expressways to avoid rattling my motorcycle to pieces, I figured I could do it in one day, Well at the first rest stop I was escorted off the expressway by  the traffic police. They were very nice a about it and wished me a pleasant journey - on the regular roads. Since they officially recorded and photographed my passport and driving license, I thought it wise to stay off the expressway for the rest of the province of Jiangxi.

This put me back on the regular Chinese roads which are often OK, but can also run for long stretches like this (or worse):



And as luck would have it, I got a fair amount of the above - so I was glad I had my bamboo struts supporting my luggage racks. Also, since it had recently rained a lot, it was also full of mud. Of course this meant it was again a 2 day trip to make it to Huangshan so  I camped by the side of the road this night.

I am so happy with my "2 second tent" That's what it is called but in reality it takes about a full 30 seconds to set it up and maybe 2 minutes to fold it up again. In the rain it is a real treat to be able to set up for the night in under a minute. Also, whether its a "2 second" tent or not, it is great security to have a tent because, when plans change and you are out in the country, it is often not possible to find a hotel. For a hotel to accept foreigners they have to be officially registered with the police department. So in out of the way, countryside areas where a hotel could expect at best one foreigner every 2 or three years, its just not worth the trouble to go through the registration process, hence they are not allowed to accept foreigners. But, in China, one is allowed to pitch a tent pretty much anywhere.

Once through the mud, it was a nice drive on the regular roads, I got to see things that you just don't see on the expressways: villages, terraced rice fields and gardens, water buffalo with birds sitting on their shoulders and incredible bamboo forests just like in the movies. But I was driving and didn't take photos as my phone was clamped to my handlebars as a GPS Navigation tool - which led me straight to my hotel in Huangshan city.

And that was a problem. I didn't research thoroughly enough. You can see on the map below Huangshan park is in the middle of the map and just north of it is what looks like a town named Huangshan. So I booked myself a hotel in Huangshan City, It wasn't until I got there that I discovered the mountain Huangshan was not at all nearby. Then on closer inspection of the map I could see there are 2 towns named "Huangshan" in English, but only be looking at the Chinese characters underneath can we know that only one of them is Huangshan city and the other is Huangshan district. So, now, instead of being close to the mountain, I was 1-1/2 hours away. Actually it took me longer than that because my GPS was malfunctioning. After many wrong  turns I finally rebooted my phone and was back on track.



One more little glitch along the way is that my radiator fan stopped working. As long as I kept moving faster than 40 KM/hour I was OK but in slow city traffic the bike would quickly overheat. I made out alright by shutting the engine down at every red light.

So here we are on the trail up Yellow mountain (Huang = Yellow, Shan = mountain). It has amazing stairs all the way to the top:




It was foggy, which gave everything a bit of a mystical look:



The further I got, the steeper became the stairs:



No  words required for this stairway:



People resting on the summit:



There is another way down so I had new stairways for the return trip:






And a couple of hundred meters down from the summit suddenly the clouds broke to again give me a view of the sea of clouds:






By  the way, Huangshan seems to be known to foreigners. I saw about a dozen westerners on this mountain. Up until now, on the 6 sacred mountains I visited (which are all major Chinese tourist sites) I saw a total of 2 Caucasians.

My original plan had me visiting Jiuhuashan (top left of the map) the next day which would have been a 1-1/2 hour drive each way from a hotel in Huangshan District. But my being in Huangshan City now made it a 3-1/2 hour drive. This meant that in order to be able to still drive back in mostly daylight, I would have at most 2 hours on the mountain. That's definitely not long enough to climb, but I could take the cable car to the top and back.

Here's the entrance gate to the Jiuhuashan scenic area which unfortunately for me was the best part:



I have learned that on these tourist mountains, the roads are closed to private vehicles. To control traffic they only allow tour buses on the roads, so unless you are walking, the only way to get there is to transfer to a tourist bus. I bought a bus ticket to the base of the cable car to the top. I ensured this by pointing on the map to the Chinese characters on the bottom of the cable car. Well ended up on a bus to the tourist street in the village at the base of the mountain (many kilometers from the cable car). Since I only had a 2 hour window there was really no time to head back to the reception area and get a different bus, so I figured I may well look around at what was there on the tourist street. Well the fog was so thick we could not even see across the street:



At  least I had a pleasant motorcycle ride there and back. The roads were mostly good pavement, nice mountain twisty roads and not a lot of traffic.

And now, because of the delays waiting for gas tanks, I had to skip Putuashan, the island mountain on the coast. Besides with no radiator fan I could not head into the heavily populated area that surrounds Shanghai. So next was to head straight for the last mountain on my tour, Taishan...

 On to Part 6 of the Sacred Mountain Moto Tour >


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