Heng Shan - 19th July 2008 @ 12:17 pm «   »

Location: China, Hunan Province : Heng Shan

Another day, another long distance bus double header..

We left Nanchang at 9:00 on a 6 hour mission to Changsha (the capital on Hunan Province), where we had to change and get a 2nd bus to Heng Shan. Of course we arrived at Changsha’s northern bus station and had to depart from the southern bus station; and only figured this out after much frantic sign-language and phrase-book pointing.

We finally arrived at Nanyue – meaning Southern Peak, the name given to the village that markes the base of the Heng Shan mountain range – just before 18:00; 9 hours after setting off on the 400-odd km journey.

It was a bumpy ride and a few of the locals had steadily been filling up car-sick bags on the way down. Marizanne offered some water to a mother and her daughter who was suffering from motion sickness. They were extremely grateful and, when we arrived in Heng Shan in the pooring rain, insisted that we take their umbrella. We’ve said it before, but these people really are so giving in spite of having so little.

Standing on the sidewalk, looking lost and paging through the guidebook as we so often do when just having arrived in a new spot and still getting our bearings, we were approached by an old lady who offered accomodation just around the corner. We gladly accepted and after Marizanne gave the room a once-over, checked in for two nights. It was seriously dirty and in need of a paint job, but dirt cheap – and of course thunderous rain often makes one go for the first option.

We settled in and, once there was a break in the rain, went out to look around and get something to eat. On our way out our granny inn-keeper requested that we have dinner in her little restaurant by writing the words “are you rice” on a piece of paper. We felt we had to diversify a bit and decide to hunt for something a little more stable in town.

Heng Shan is the southernmost of China’s five Taoist mountains and represents fire among the five primordial elements of Chinese philosophy. Reputedly kings and emperors once came here to hunt and make sacrifices to earth & heaven. Not counting Song Shan, which we had previously missed because of the weather, this was to be our 3rd Taoist quest.

We knew that the hike up the mountian took about 4 hours and, since we were planning on getting a minibus back down, decided to forget about alarm clocks. We started the climb around 11:00 and found it to be a little less scerene then what we’ve come to expect from China’s holy mountains.

At some stage, the authorities decided it would be a good idea to build a 2 lane paved road winding from the village all the way to Wishing Harmony Peak, the mountains highest peak. Loads of bikes, private cars and tour busses smoke their way on the 8km track and blow their horns at anything that moves (anyone who has visited Asia will know that any form of vehicle operation requires absolutely no driving skills, but simply a heavy hooter-hand).. taking away a little bit of the aura of the place.

In many places the walking trail deviated from the road, but one was never too far from the smell of automotive fumes. The miseries of the combustion engine aside, the scenery was nice and we were treated with many small temples and monasteries dotted along the way. The going was fairly good, but with a heavily overcast sky there was the constant threat of rain and the possibility of having any kind of view from lookout points were washed away.

Reaching the top was unfortunately a bit of an anticlimax also, with a rather bland looking temple plotted next to a heaving little parking lot.. those hooters were starting to get to us..

To top things off, in spite of loads of mini busses wizzing around, we weren’t able to get a ride down. Our pleading requests for portage were only met with an abrupt wave of the hand and mostly rather rude brush-offs. Finally we clued together that there was an official bus stop 4 km down the mountain – not very far really, but we had not planned on 4 extra km’s of ascending steps.

We started down and to our joy found the busses parked only about 2km down the hill and paid our way with a smile.

Back in town we had quick Skype catch-ups with the folks and went for a very late dinner in a proper local joint before turning in. The morning promised more joys in the way of long-distance buses..

If you can’t see the slideshow above click here.

Comments are closed.