Hua Shan almost didn’t happen. The cost of the day trip tops £60 using local transport, with a three hour journey each way, the lonely planet almost put me off making the trip. It had been on my list of things to try and do though, and after you’ve shelled out to get to China you may as well break the budget to see what you want. We delayed the trip a day, as we didn’t fancy hiking in mid thirties sun and were enjoying drinking beer with the Brazilians!
So on a cloudy Wednesday morning we took the bus to the train station to find the shuttles that make the 120km journey to Hua Shan. After almost being caught by touts trying to sell us a coach we didn’t want, we found the local shuttle that ran to and from Xi’an. The journey was long and once arriving you have to listen to some safety meeting by a parks officer, then shell out near on fifty quid for entrance, cable car up and the coach to the start of the cable car. It was certainly a painful expense, but once we got going it was completely worth it.
I’d planned our route using the lonely planet, which is a bit out of date (I think the new one was published this week) and it didn’t have the new cable car at the West peak in it. So a quick plan whilst we were being lectured in Mandarin had us riding up to the West, looping around the five peaks then walking the 5000 steps down into the valley and following the trail back into the town.
The scenery as we approached the the cable car was impressive, but nothing compared to what was to come. The cable car rose up through a gulley, when it reached the peak it rose over it and you were suddenly hanging a couple of thousand metres in the air crossing the valleys towards the mountain. The clouds hung mystically semi shrouding the mountains as the cable car undulated it’s way over a middle peak before rising up into the clouds, piercing through to reveal the world above the clouds. To finish off the dramatic trip you traveled inside the mountain to where the station had been tunneled out to finally climb the stairs to the base of the west peak. I was quite literally giddy on the journey, it was one of the most spectacular things I’ve seen. Julia found it hilarious how excited I was, especially when we rose out of the gulley and I jumped out of my seat to try properly comprehend how insane the view was.
The loop around the peaks was brilliant. The mountain, as warned, is no longer a spiritual peaceful place, it’s properly developed with fairly well signed paths to direct you around. This doesn’t take away at all from the scenery, of which we had perfect conditions with some clouds at first to add to the lost world feel, clearing up later with bright sun giving long views out.
We also did the completely terrifying plank walk. Kitted up with old school shoulder harnesses that didn’t feel at all secured, you climbed down a rickety ladder, clinging to the cliff face as you traversed some drilled in footholds before the planks around to a small cave, all with a few kilometre drop under you. To make it worse it wasn’t a one way system so you had to pass people, either crush into the cliff, or hang your heels off the edge of the boardwalk and tip toe past. I did this whilst also trying to cling to my camera. It was definitely an experience you appreciated afterwards, at the time I was petrified.
Our climb down via the stairs was fun as the mountain slowly started to tower over us. We made it back in time for the 6pm bus so were back at the hostel for 9pm for a quick shower then out to eat. The legs are certainly feeling it today, I don’t think the celebratory beers with our street food helped the muscles recover!
It was close to a fifteen hour day trip, but has been the highlight of the my trip so far, I absolutely loved it. I picked up a relatively expensive (even after a pretty lengthy bartering session) hand painting of the mountains when in Xi’an that will hopefully one day adorn a wall when I live somewhere!