After the early morning excitement, we arrived into Changsha, Hunan at 8:30am, the province where Mao was born, but we weren't there to visit his home, we were off to see Zhangjiajie National Park. These mountains were 4 hours from Changsha which meant Mark and I caught up on our sleep.
Zhangjiajie is a Unesco site which covers about 9600 square kilometers. According to our guide, Ray, this national park was not only the first national park in China, it is also the best park in China. I thought it was Huangshan, but he corrected me by saying that to the outside world it is Huangshan, but to Chinese it's Zhangjiajie. Having not been to Huangshan, we had to take his word for it.
It was a beautiful park. Like Songshan, the weather wasn't exactly co-operating with us but we still managed to have a great time.The first scenic part was Wulingyuan. We had to take a 20 minute bus ride to get to the part where you took an elevator up the cliff face to begin our walk through this part of the forest. The first 20 minutes or so it rained, then finally stopped which was a relief so we could take photos without raindrops on our lenses. Plus less tourists, there are benefits to bad weather.
The sandstone peaks were stunning, and quite unique in the world. It's also home to over 300 species of animals, not including the human kind. We walked up and down steps for a couple of hours. Mark in his rush forgot his sandals so he was hiking in his work shoes.
After Wulingyuan we had to take another bus (25 minutes away) to go to Tianzi. Okay, so we're waiting, and waiting for the bus to leave, but the driver needs to wait until the bus is full before heading to the mountain. It's past 5 pm, and apparently the cable car that takes us back down stops at 6pm. Here is where one gets a wee bit frustrated with the Chinese. We understood the bus driver needed to wait, as it was probably the last bus of the day, and there are locals who live in this area, so that is their transportation, but you would think, our guide, Ray, would say, hey guys you know what, since the weather isn't the best (it was getting foggier as we waited in the bus) and the cable ends at 6pm, why don't we just leave it and head back. Now that would have been the sensible thing to do, but, we sometimes forget we're in China, and logic isn't always paramount. Nope, we go to the top of the mountain, where one Chinese gal, yells to the driver, kuai dian, meaning quickly. The reason we go up there is to see a another set of mountains, but by this point it's too cloudy to see. Instead we run up a mountain to try and catch the cablecar before it stops for the night. Ray, in typical Chinese manner says that it's a 10 minute hike to the cablecar. Mark timed it at 35 minutes and we were basically running. We should know better. Had we missed the cablecar, it would have been a 3 hour hike down, in the dark, with no lights, remember we're in China. That would not have been good. The ride itself would have been wonderful to see during daylight. Had we been there about 1/2 hour before, which was basically our wait time in the shuttle bus, we would have seen some breathtaking views.
After that we went back to the hotel, Mark and I were too tired to go out to eat, so we went to a small convenience store and purchased some noodles.
See the world doesn't always revolve around us...