Today, a cycling tour on the Xi’an city wall was actually on our itinerary. However, one member of our group proposed to go hiking at Hua Shan instead. This proposal was greeted with some enthusiasm, and so seven people (of our group of nine) ended up spending their day on the mountain instead of the city. I was one of these seven.
Hua Shan has been on my wish list for several years now, since I first saw a video of the plank walk that can be found there. Originally, I did not expect that I would be able to do this on this tour. So, I was rather thankful for my fellow traveller’s initiative (Thanks again, N.!).
However, the trip did require some effort (which was absolutely worth it in the end, though): We met at 6.15 a.m. in the hotel lobby. From there, we took a taxi to the train station, where it took us some time to find the ticket counter. Still, we managed to catch our train at 7.20 a.m.. After about two hours (due to some delay on the way), we arrived at Hua Shan Railway Station. Then, we caught another cab to take us to the cable car.
Unfortunately, this taxi ride did not go quite as planned: First, we were not able to negatiate a more reasonable price for the ride – the taxi drivers seem to have a price agreement here. Then, our taxis were stopped by the police during the ride. Our driver got quite nervous, suddenly uncovered a meter, and just mumbled to us:
Meter, meter, meter! Obviously, he was supposed to use the meter, but the police did not seem to fine him. He was not even nervous enough to stop trying to con us: He dropped us off at some shabby shop, trying to convince us that we had to buy our tickets there. We were not fooled, though, and he finally took us to the actual ticket counter around the corner. However, as it turned out, we could not take the cab all the way to the cable car. Instead, we had to take a shuttle bus (for which we had to pay again). Due to all these complications, it took us until 11.15 a.m. to arrive at the top of the cable car – five hours after the start of our trip!
But this effort was definitely worth it: Already on our way into the valley (driving to the cable car), the views of the mountains were quite impressive. At the top, they were even more scenic. Unfortunately, these magnificent views also attracted other visitors. So, we started our hike together with hordes of Chinese tourists.
Our hike led us from the North Peak of Hua Shan up the Green Dragon Ridge (over countless steps) towards the other peaks of Hua Shan (South, East, West, and Central Peak). At some places along the way, there is even a one-way-system in place to manage the huge crowd of hikers. Still, despite the large number of visitors, the hike was gorgeous, even though climbing the many steps was quite tiring.
After about two hours, we reached the South Peak area, where the real highlight of our hike awaited us: the Plank Road in the Sky. This path consists of wodden planks fixed to the cliffside. In order to reach it, you have to climb down a ladder consisting of iron beams wedged into a crevice. Then, you can inch along on the wodden planks. As the path is a dead end, you have to return the same way, bypassing the hikers going in the other direction. For safety, you are wearing a harness, though, so it is actually not that dangerous. Still, it might sound a bit frightening at first (and some people definitely were a bit nervous), but I enjoyed every minute of it.