Conquering Lotus peak in Yellow mt., together with a few hundred Chinese, a printer and the highest medal engraving business in the world.

November 19, 2010

The weekend explorers, might as well be a name to define the activity of trying to reclaim oxygen and freedom that has been suppressed throughout the week. Unfortunately having working Saturdays in the program translates to: Every Other Weekend Explorers, this gives plenty of time for planning and daydreaming thought, which in turn feeds everything else. Drawing a 250km circle around Hangzhou, Huangshan (yellow mountain) is the first thing to stand out. Famous in China for the spectacular views, pine trees and unnatural granite rocks it attracts a lot of attention and millions of tourists. A plan is set, the colleagues at work get really excited, draw me maps and advice me to dress warmly, my plan to sleep on top amuses them. Announcing the plan to Ben brings two more happy climbers and the rest is history. Early wake up, grab a bus from west station heading Tangkou, a small village/city next to mt. Huangshan.

Having my passport happily residing inside some immigration office drawer we made worst case scenarios for our accommodation. Without one you can’t book a hotel room which is quite a drag, James is in the same boat with me, having forgotten his one back home. To our surprise a cheap hotel finds us (through the form of an English speaking girl, which also happens to be the daughter of the bus owner, a thriving business) the moment we step out of the bus, no questions/passports asked, a room is produced and we settle inside for 40RMB per head. Taxi ride to the entrance of the mountain and after a hefty fee we browse through waves of people searching for the path to Lotus peak. Back home i ‘ve only experienced crowded beaches but here mountains are the place to be. That brings numerous armies of internal tourists and an impressive supporting structure on the whole mountain surface dedicated to them.

Starting the ascend all dreams of seclusion were scattered, swarms of people were descending with a 500 to 1 ratio (500 down 1 up). This strange phenomenon was attributed solely to the existence of a cable car, you pay, reach the top and then climb down the slope with rose cheeks and a sweatless shirt. Stone steps were followed by more stone steps, a few hours later we realise that the whole path was made out of steps like an endless ladder. It was the first time to climb a mountain without stepping on a dirt path. Soon we start panting as the steepness of the rock increases, we seem to amuse the people who climb down in disproportionate effort, business men and fat guys cheer us. At one point i put my backpack down and a middle aged man jumps from nowhere and tries to grab it quite persistently, after weighting it in his hands he springs a proud smile, satisfied, shouts “Gooooooood” and gives me the victory sign. It seems i passed the: laowaicarryinglotsofheavyuselesscraponmountains test cause nobody else tried to scale my bag after that.

As we get higher the scenic beauty unravels, granite rocks in sculptural compositions, a stone colour palette that flirts with red and pine trees in intricate distorted shapes. An increasing amount of downward hikers are wearing gold medals, wondering if we missed our chances for fame and glory we stumble upon the first medal engraver, it seem to be a thriving business were people buy, nominate and award a medal to themselves marking the heroic descend of the yellow mountain (preceded by an unheroic but more relaxing cable car ride to the high grounds). Laowais are few so we gather our fair share of intense stares and random halloooos, but it’s all in the game. Small kiosks sell souvenirs and cold cucumbers, prices increase together with altitude. People walk happily holding fresh cucumbers like swords, saving them for later consumption.

Countless steps ahead and we reach the root of all evil, the cable car station, were it feels like you suddenly stepped outside a busy metro station at peak hour in a big city. You literary have to push your way to reach a place with a view. Classic photo spots are so crowded that you can’t see the ground, only a moving mass of bodies and victory signs. Here lie the famous locks, couples put one in the wires and throw the keys down the cliff, sealing their feelings forever and ever. ( inspired by another couple that was forced to put an abrupt end, jumping from these very rocks after stubborn families refused to recognise their love, or so the story goes). I start getting dizzy with the noise, tour guides climb on rocks, scream through their portable loudspeakers and wave green flags to snap group members out of their photo frenzy and direct them to the top.

Classy middle aged ladies with shades and gold jewellery pay bamboo chair carriers to lift them in between peaks. These guys are hardcore, teams of two along with a bamboo chair with protruding handles, run up and down the mountain, searching for customers, which then have to bring up and down for a ridiculous price. I start hating all floating monarchs who use these human taxis. Path becomes really narrow as it traverses the slope higher and higher, angle increases incrementally and at points you have to turn back some evolutionary steps and walk on four. I count 11 steps till my eye level and make a semi wild guess that the angle is 65-75 degrees. Having 2 English men in the group brings laughter as they compare the health and safety rules of England and China, numerous times they proclaim wide eyed: “This would be illegal in UK!!!” (Same guys had previously went to a safari were you could feed live chickens to cheetahs, lowering them to the pit with a rope…).

Pushing, twisting and waiting patiently the queue to move, we manage to reach Lotus peak, were the situation is impenetrable. Sorry madam you are stepping on my oxygen, ni hao sir you are pushing me to the abyss, urghh, something is boiling nearby, squeezing our way we discover a table with two Chinese engravers, making custom medals for 10RMB, next to them is a printer in it’s full glory shining his green LED in contempt (first photo), in retrospect he had all the reasons to gloat reaching the top before us… that puts an end to the adventure, we leave the busiest peak every seen in search for a pic nic rock. The sight of 3 laowais munching sandwich is too much to resist, for a moment we surpass the peak in popularity as couples stop to take a photo with us, first the wife signaling the familiar victory gesture and then the husband (who was waiting patiently for his turn) he is a little more expressive, shouting: “HaaandSOMEE”, “SUPERRRRMANN” while his mother in law encaptures this happy moment in a memory card. Nothing worth mentioning happened after that, climbing down the stairs is much easier, although now it was the time for our calves and knees to start their little protest and stubbornly refuse to operate. We manage to reach the entrance just as the day disappeard. The idea to count all the steps suffered a quick death, it’s easier to say that it was the longest and most beautiful ladder i ever climbed. 20km of constant stairs… More photos here.


5 Responses to “Conquering Lotus peak in Yellow mt., together with a few hundred Chinese, a printer and the highest medal engraving business in the world.”

  1. Katerina said

    Stop climbing the clif superman and eat your sandwich so I can take a picture of you without your mouth full!
    Α, ρε αδερφάκι, ούτε μια εκδρομή δε μπορείς να πάς σ’αυτό το μέρος με την ησυχία σου! Πήρατε μετάλιο?

  2. kamikazzzi said

    Όχι η μάλλον ο Κινέζος της παρέας πήρε. Δεν είναι το ίδιο να το αγοράζεις μόνος σου : Ρ

  3. skoupidiaris said

    το “more photos here” δε δουλεύει…

  4. kamikazzzi said

    fixed. μετακομίσαμε!

  5. skoupidiaris said

    το πρόσεξα…:P see you there

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