Martina (from Wales) and Jeanne (from North Carolina) and I decided to have a girls’ trip this past weekend and take advantage of our three-day weekend. While it is not the wisest idea to travel during the Chinese holidays (because every Chinese person is doing the same thing and everywhere you go is crowded beyond belief), we decided to just go for it and use all the time we have left to see as much as we possibly can!
Thursday late afternoon, the three of us headed to Hongqiao Airport in Shanghai and took a short 45-minute plane ride to Tunxi. Tunxi is about an hour and 45-minute cab ride to Tankou (the town near Huangshan Mountain), but we knew it was too much to try to travel and mountain climb all in one day.
We arrived in Tunxi around 5pm and checked into a very simple but Zen hostel. The hostel was lined with hanging red lanterns and surrounded by a goldfish pond with traditional Chinese stone statues. The hostel was conveniently located only 10 minutes from Tunxi’s “Old Town”. We embraced out girls’ getaway and strolled the streets of the old town, sipped on tea and said “ganbei” (“cheers” in Chinese) over three cold and refreshing watermelon juices. While most Old Towns in China have a similar vibe and offer all the same trinkets, it is still fun to explore…never know what you might come across! (See the previous post for pictures of Tunxi’s Old Town).
Friday morning at 8am, we arranged a cab to bring us to Tankou (the town at the base of the mountain). We became pals with the cabbie, so he became our personal driver for the remainder of the trip. Whenever we needed a ride, we gave him a ring and he magically appeared within minutes. Speaking Chinese definitely came in handy this trip!
We set off hiking at exactly 9:35am. The mountain was not exactly a trail, but rather man-made steps leading straight up to the top. Imagine walking up steep stairs for 5 hours straight? Well, that’s what we did! Any Stairmaster workout at the gym will seem like a piece of cake now!
We stopped a few times for water and fruit, but otherwise did not take a single break. We just kept marching up! Luckily, we planned this trip the smart way (thanks to Martina – she is the world’s best trip planner). Some of our friends also hiked Huangshan, but they chose to camp outside in tents. Camping in tents without showering and having to eat canned beans is the LAST thing we would have wanted to do after having the hardest workout of our lives. I could not imagine carrying all that camping gear on our backs all the way up. We did it the right way and hiked to our 5 star hotel on the top of the mountain.
We got to our hotel, had an amazing Western style dinner and slept for 14 hours in our comfy beds, snuggled up in our feather-filled comforters.
The three of us rarely wake up past 7am, even on the weekends, but we all slept until noon! I guess our bodies needed it. We thought going down the mountain would be quick, so we didn’t think we needed to rush down to make it back in time for our flight leaving at 11pm. Little did we know…getting lost on Huangshan Mountain is almost inevitable. We made one wrong turn coming down and had to take several detours. We started to panic, thinking we may be stuck on a mountain overnight. We then came across a cable car that brought us to a familiar destination, and we were able to find our way from there. I have terrible navigation skills, but speak fluent Chinese. So, between the three of us, we were set. We stopped every 5 minutes so that I could ask the guards in Chinese where to go, and then I would translate to Jeanne and Martina who found our route. As my students say, “teamwork makes the dream work!”
I thought hiking down the stairs would be easier, but my knees were just constantly pounding. It hurt. This was WAY harder than climbing The Great Wall. However, the people watching was so fantastic, that it made the time fly! Only in China do you go mountain climbing and see women in heels and polka dot skirts climbing beside you! While I thought these women were completely out of their minds, I was quite impressed! How in the world do you wear heels climbing up and down a mountain?!?!?! I was even more impressed by the Chinese men carrying exhausted climbers in rickshaws all the way up the mountain. I was speechless.
The views of the peaks were incredible on our hike down. We took a different route than we did going up, which gave us a much better view! We also stopped by a famous “lock bridge” (see below). There was a long chain of locks hanging over a peak. Apparently, couples engrave the locks and attach them to the chain to symbolize their eternal love. (Kind of sappy, but cute).
Luckily, we made it off the mountain before dark. Phew. We called our cabbie when we finally got off the mountain and he brought us back to the Old Town where we had more tea and watermelon juice to kill some time before heading to the airport.
Jeanne and Martina are the best people to travel with. They are so positive and never ever complain about anything. Anything that goes wrong just ends up turning into giggles and funny stories. They are the greatest.
Today, the three of us (known by everyone on campus as "The Three Musketeers") started the first of our 20 personal training sessions (Martina’s boyfriend, Luke, is a personal trainer in Shanghai and convinced us to sign up with him). We didn’t quite anticipate we would be THIS sore!!!
I am so sore that I am actually limping and crawling down stairs...not even joking. We successfully got through our first session though and completed our initial “fitness test”. Can’t wait to see the result in July! Bring on the buns of steel!
Night everyone XO