We went back to Hangzhou on the 5th June for a night. We caught a bus back to the university where we were staying. The bus drivers have a very hard job and have to keep their wits about them all the time. There are many dedicated bus lanes which helps but otherwise they have to contend with cars and other vehicles cutting in front of them all the time. There are designated lanes but they all change lanes constantly. Our poor bus driver had someone cut in front of him and he just touched the vehicle which suffered very little damage but within seconds there were two policemen there and we had to all get off the bus and walk to the next bus stop while the bus driver had to get out of the bus and sort it out with the police and the other driver. We felt sorry for him. There are quite a number of female bus drivers and some of the buses are decorated with plastic flowers in vases and draped around the windows!

They are very cheap – any long journey around town cost 50cents and any short journeys are between 20 and 30cents.

In the morning Maurice had the first fitting of his plate. We were the first appointment for the fitting at 8am which went well and then we headed off to the west bus station for the 3 1/2 hour bus trip to Tangkou and then a change of bus for a slightly hairy 20minute bus ride a bit further up Huangshan (yellow mountain) to our hotel which was very nice and the loud sound on entering the room was a waterfall and the river not far from our window behind some trees. It had been raining and was very misty over the mountain but it was humid so it wasn’t cold.

The scenery on the way was varied again – beautiful hills of conifers and waving bamboo and then towns with large appartment blocks and ever ongoing construction. There were many tunnels through the mountains, some over 2kms long.

The staff at the hotel were all lovely and helpful and only one really spoke some English. We ate for 2nights at the hotel as it was a long way to anywhere else and our cute little waiter when he brought out a dish would say “eat happy” We couldn’t correct him as he was so enthusiastic saying it an anything that we asked for he would reply “later” and bring it straight away. The first night we were there we ordered an eggplant dish and green vegetable and and a delicious beef noodle dish and rice. There was enough for six people and we felt sorry that we couldn’t do it all justice but there was just no way. We were savvy enough the second night to not order so many dishes.

Huangshan mountain covers an enormous area with scores of peaks, some rock and others with beautiful green vegetation and trees covering them. We caught another bus (about 20minutes) to a cableway further again up the mountain. No where in the literature was anything said about the entrance fees at the cableways accepting only cash and only Chinese credit cards – not foreign ones. After a bit of a panic as we didn’t have an enough cash, the girl behing the counter wanted Maurice to take his hat off and asked his age.

Luckily we had his Aussie driver’s licence and that brought the entrance ticket and cable car fare down to what I had in cash. That was fine for going up but I didn’t have enough to get back down on the other cable way so we had to factor in a further almost perpendicular climb up to a hotel where an ATM could be found. When we got there it wouldn’t accept a couple of cards and we breathed a big sigh of relief when we could access one of Maurice’s credit cards. We did speak to other Chinese tourists who also did not realize that they needed so much cash so we weren’t the only ones.

I was sad for Maurice that there was so much mist that we couldn’t see much at all but I was glad as I really don’t like heights and climbing on the side of the cliffs was a bit much for me so I clung to the side of the mountain. It does however look spectacular in photos and a friend had recommended that we not miss it so we did enjoy the experience. It was just unfortunate that the 2days we were there was very misty and while we were climbing the thousands of steps up and down the peaks back to another cableway it poured with rain twice and we got drenched. There was nowhere to escape the rain and there were many Chinese tourists ahead of us and behind us. They all had their yellow raincoats so were easy to spot all over the mountain side following the obligatory guide with microphine, loud voice and flag!

We covered about 8kms of steps in about 4hours. It was slow going and our calf muscles definately felt it the next day as a lot the steps were very steep. I don’t like cable cars either but it was a relief to get to the other cable way further down the mountain for the trip back to the bus station. The signage and the distances shown on the way were not very accurate so we kept asking the tour guides who knew the place well as we really didn’t want to do thousands more steps than necessary. The many scores of peaks that we should have seen have wonderful names like “Immortal walking on stilts” and “Service station of Grand Canyon”, “Double cats catching the Mouse” and “Beginning to believe peak”.

We were glad to catch the bus back to the hotel and get out of our wet clothes and shoes and have a hot shower. We did suffer a bit from headaches from the altitude but drank plenty of water and took it easy when we got back. Some other poor unsuspecting Chinese tourists who were not as fit had to resort to being carried for various sections of the mountain on a sedan chair made of bamboo which flexed every time the two men carrying it moved. The men carrying them had some stamina but I don’t think I would have liked to be held up high bobbing up an down! We also saw workmen carrying rocks and gas cylindes on shoulder poles up the many steps to where they were working. They were fit but also had to stop along the way if they had heavy loads. They also had to contend with all the tourists along the way. There are scores of buses just travelling up and down the mountain every day and we were told that we were extremely lucky with our timing as as of the 8th of June over 9million students would have just finished their university entrance exams for 7 million university positions and that they would all be travelling somewhere (including yellow mountain) in the coming days – phew!

The kilometres of steps and tunnels and concrete railings made to look like gnarled wood which cover the many peaks of the mountain are an incredible feat of construction.

We left the next morning with very sore calf muscles and wished we had more time to visit the beautiful hot springs at 42degrees up the road.

We caught two buses to Tunxi which is about an hour from Huangshan. We stayed at a very traditional hotel “The Old Street Hotel ” in the old city and enjoyed walking on flat ground around the traditional old streets. We finished the last of our bottle of whisky and felt decidedly better and then had another delicious meal. There was only a menu in Chinese characters and there were only locals eating there so we thought it would be good. The manager was very good and took us to the fridges to show us what we could choose to eat.

The Chinese place great emphasis on food. They love the hundreds of snacks that you can get all over the city from steamed buns, jidanbing (a wonderful egg pancake)cooked corn, tofu and meat on sticks. It doesn’t seem to matter whether you eat in the cafeteria or in a nice restaurant, the food comes out as it is cooked so you might get beef with green chilli followed by ice cream and cherries and then seafood with noodles following that. If you wait for rice it might be the last thing that comes out! We have not been eating any dessert so it hasn’t bothered us.

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