Back to Shanghai

Woke up and got some breakfast thanks to Allen and headed for the Yuping Cableway that would lead me off of the mountain. By this time it was 8:15am and I had to be at the train station at 2pm to catch my bullet train back to Shanghai. Based on the map, it said it would take me 4 hours of hiking to get back to Huangshan and from there about an hour taxi to the station. I was a bit stressed on time but I had no other options.

So the hike begins. This time I have all of my luggage. My rolling suitcase weighed probably 20lbs and my backpack with cameras, laptops, tripod, watches, etc. was on my back. It was grueling. I basically spent the first 45 mins entirely in prayer because I surely felt doomed to fail. My legs were aching and started shaking, I was running low on water, and the stairs kept climbing higher and higher. However, after that intense 45 mins, I reached Bright Top and things leveled out for a time. Also I stopped feeling the ache in my legs and the scenery became even more beautiful. The hike continued and once I reached the Bayiun Hotel, I had only 2 hours left until I reached the cablecar. The whole place was magnificent. There were many forks in the road and I kept asking for directions, but each time I asked I was directed toward the more difficult option. Awesome. I really wanted to launch my drone in a few spots but I knew it wouldn't be worth missing my train so I snapped a few pics while walking and made it to the cablecar about an hour ahead of schedule!

The cablecar was the finish line. I finally got to sit and enjoy the wondrous beauty around me. I had a gondola all to myself and just listened to the bugs chirp and the wind blow through the small windows. Dragonflies the size of canaries were everywhere on the mountain but they vanished once I began my descent. Hoped on a bus to Huangshan and took a taxi to the train station.

I spent most of my time editing (as usual) but I also read a bunch too! When I finally got back to the Chase's home I was so sore and exhausted. They fed me wonderful food and caught up with me on my travels until we all crashed and went to bed.  

Huangshan Mountains

First thing in the morning, I took an hour and a half taxi for 185¥ and ended up at a town near Huangshan Mountain. I met a Chinese national named Allen who became my travel companion. We took a bus to get inside where the driver was basically whipping us around hairpin turns for 20 mins. That cost 20¥. Getting inside the park and a gondola ticket was another 310¥. The gondola ride was unlike anything I had ever seen. That alone would have been worth the 330¥. 

This pic reminds me of Jurassic Park

Because I left my old lodgings behind, I took my suitcase with me. This turned into quite the hassle when hiking the mountainous trails of Huangshan. Eventually we made it to a hotel where Allen had a reservation and he booked one for me as well. The amount of stress that took off my shoulders was immaculate. He even paid the 300¥ for the room for me and tole me to send him money over PayPal when I got back to the states. He did this because he's an amazing human being and he wanted to make sure I had enough cash to last me the rest of the trip. Seriously Allen was a Godsend. Once my hotel was booked, Allen bounced. I left the heavy pieces of my luggage in my hotel room and headed out to see some of the Hunagshan Mountains. 

I started maybe around 2pm and went along the Xihai Grand Canyon. It seriously makes the US Grand Canyon look like child's play. Not in size, the US still has that one, but in sheer, stunning beauty. Absolutely magical. Several times I launched my drone to get some areal shots of the canyon. There was a lot of interference due to the massive rocks in the area (or so I think), so flying it was not the easiest task. Some of the cement walkways were hugging the side of the mountain, as were most of the hikers. You would see the walkways coming up and notice there was nothing supporting them from underneath. Luckily there were railings and the cement was sturdy. However if the cement failed or someone fell, it would be an utter miracle if they came out alive. No risk no reward. 

Everyone was fascinated with my drone and loved watching me fly it. The shadows of the mountains and the bright sky made for a really high contrast scenario so I'm interested in seeing how the footage turned out. My DJI Phantom 3 Standard doesn't shoot video in RAW, so I'm curious to see how much I'll be able to push or pull the footage. Enough camera nerd stuff. Unless you want to hear more, then tell me!

At the bottom of the Xihai Grand Canyon, there was a tram that ran up the mountain so you didn't have to hike all the way back. Sure it was 100¥ but that is pocket change compared to the amount of effort hiking would have taken. By this time is was probably around 6:15pm and spending another 3 hours hiking didn't sound fun. Got to the top and it states to rain. Luckily Allen was very generous and bought me a poncho earlier on in the day. It probably took me an hour to hike with all my gear in the rain back to my hotel. 

Ate some extremely overpriced food and drank mediocre overpriced beer before sitting down and editing. Allen came by my room and gave me a free breakfast coupon (seriously what an amazing guy) and then left. Sadly I never saw him again. I was going to post on my blog/Instagram but the wifi there was so slow I couldn't even load a webpage. So instead I watched The Newsroom on my laptop and went to bed exhausted. 

Misadventures in Huangshan

The English language, fast wifi, and my bed are easily the 3 things I miss the most right now. Numbers 4 and 5 are my iMac and Netflix. Today (July 29) was a travel day from Beijing to Huangshan so nothing very interesting happened. I sat on a bullet train for 6 hours, slept, and edited photos from the Great Wall to post later. The most interesting thing that happened was on the train when I pointed at a prepackaged meal, having no idea what it was, and eating it. It wasn't bad. 

A piece of art on a concrete wall. I think someone made a fire beneath at some point.

When I arrived in Huangshan I found out that I booked my Airbnb next to the wrong train station, so I had to take a taxi. Naturally, my taxi driver didn't speak a lick of English. I however can now say "hello, thank you, and good bye" in Chinese, so the playing field was pretty even. Pointing to things was useless. I had directions on my phone, pictures of the route, the physical address and still there was confusion. Face palm. Finally found the number of the Airbnb host who talked to him. Magically everything was fine then. So confused. 

Honestly I have no idea why I'm here. This looks nothing like the pictures of Huangshan I found online during my research. I was looking for a rural area with majestic Avatar style mountains where I could relax and fly my drone with ease. Right now I'm currently surrounded by tall buildings, loads of cars, and distant but very average mountains. 

Nothing can ruin your mood faster than having expectations not meet your reality. Trust me when I say I've learned this the hard way. When entering Beijing, my only expectations were to have a place to stay, take cool photos, and see the city. Yeah my hostel was in a weird and slightly sketchy part of town, but that didn't matter because I hadn't expected to be in a 5 star hotel. I'm usually pretty good at managing this and going with the flow but I really had hoped for a quaint little town in the countryside near beautiful mountains, outside of Shanghai. I never thought I would be so upset over a place being too nice. 

Exhausted from the train ride, the taxi incident, and being disappointed, I took a nap to gain some energy back. When I woke up, I walked toward the spot with the brightest lights and found a massive 5 story mall. Looked around each floor until I stopped at a place called Cheese Pub. Yeah, pretty weird. But the atmosphere was nice and the menu had a lot of baked cheesy items like pizza and pasta. I was tempted to get the banana pizza, but instead chose the a baked chicken and cheese dish. On the plus side, I later found out that the floors above the mall were still being constructed so I snuck in and took a few pics.

The next day I literally did nothing. The first thing I did was pick a direction and walk until I found something cool. I probably walked for a solid half hour and found nothing but dirty streets, people burning trash, and run down homes. So I turned around and walked in another direction. Nothing. No interesting shops, markets, street vendors, museums, restaurants. Nothing but that stupid mall and hotels. All I was really looking for was a place to eat and read my book. Nothing special. I settled for the mall and went to a place called "Big Hamburg." One thing America has truly perfected is the hamburger. My entire burger was wet, bread, tomatoes, meat, everything. I had wifi though and was in a public place relaxing so things weren't too bad. Then a baby started scream crying. Instantly through in the towel and went back to my lodgings. 

I began doing research to leave this place. The Huangshan Mountain, where I had wanted to go all along, was an hour and a half away from where I was staying. Busses, trains, and subways were all nonexistent here so I decided I had to take a taxi. I researched the hike up the mountain and if there were places to stay in that area. By this time, it was too late to leave so I decided to stay the night and leave on the morning.