Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong, Part Two

28 Oct

Part one can be found here.

Getting up at ungodly’o’clock, Katia and I stumbled our way to the bus station and found ourselves faced with a quandary. Several other students from our dorms were there, all headed in different directions. Some back to Chengdu thanks to budget constrictions, others to destinations unknown (look, it was six thirty in the morning, what makes you think I’m going to remember poorly mumbled Chinese?), and Kyle and co. to Huanglong (lit. “yellow dragon”). Given that the title of this post is “Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong”, I bet you can see where this was going. While at the bus station, we also cleverly bought our tickets home at the same time. It would suck to return to Jiuzhaigou, only to find ourselves unable to get a seat on the bus ride home.

Surprisingly, there was very little snoozing on this trip. Mostly because of this.

Yes indeed, it has already started snowing in the mountains here in Sichuan. Brrr, I say. That didn’t stop people in the farming communities we passed through from still being out and about. In fact, I believed we passed by an autumn harvest of some leafy green thing (cabbage, maybe?) on both trips.

Katia and I were more interested in throwing snowballs at each other but hey.

On the bus ride there, the bus attendant gave us a minor heart attack when he went around selling tickets for the return ride home and for the park entrance itself. Instead of the price being 110 kuai, which is what our friend’s tour guide said it was, the price had more than doubled in the two years since print. I gulped. Given that we had already purchased return tickets, I was operating on fumes and supplies already purchased. (A reusable water mug and a couple of hot cocoa mixes or bags of tea goes a long way. So do crackers.) Katia spotted me the difference and we arrived in Huanglong.

It was fortuitous that we had broken down and bought the damn tickets, price gouging or no, because the bus dropped us off at the bottom of a mountain with only park structures in sight. No support village, catering to the needs of the tourists and the locals. Just a national park and a couple of convenience food stands with wildly inflated prices.

If you’re smart, you suck it up and buy the ski-lift tickets to drop you off at the top of the mountain and work your way down. Katia and I did this, mostly due to our shortened time-frame. We had to walk the entire damn thing in under four hours. Katia figured that if little old Chinese ladies could do the mountain without resorting to oxygen cannisters (and they sold them! People used ’em! Even at the bottom of the mountain, the pansies.), so could we. And in better time.

Ahahaha. Mine is a bitter laugh. More on this later.

We met up with the others at the top of the mountain and started off. The path was a wooden walkway nestled in amongst the trees. This was pretty, but wet, since all the SNOW was melting off. Onto us. There is a lot of walking and oohing and ahhing.

For your viewing pleasure:

Despite the advice of Tommy, I thought visiting Huanglong was actually very fun. It wasn’t a repeat of Jiuzhaigou thanks to the added excitement of snow.

Unfortunately, my feet did not agree with my head. About a month ago, I sprained some tendons in my foot going down six flights of stairs. It was no big deal so I didn’t go to the doctor (besides, there is honestly very little they can do for foot injuries), but as I was going down dozens of steps at Huanglong, my feet were rebelling. I was usually in the back of our group with Xavier, who has a bum knee, or made a painful effort to keep up. Thankfully, nothing was swollen when I got back to the bus, but for the next three days stepping down, even off the curb, was painful.  I think it basically breaks down into something like this: Jane < Mountain < Little Old Chinese Lady on our bus who beat us to the bottom.

Back on the bus, we trekked to Jiuzhaigou. At one point in our trip, we were at cloud level.

We stayed at the Tibetan family hostel for one more night and then bused back to Chengdu. The road back to Chengdu runs directly through the quakezone from the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake. It took us a while to understand that the big signs across the gully from us with 213 written on them meant the Highway 213. The rocks had shifted and landslided to the extent that it looked like they were never even there. Terrifying stuff, when you think about the fact that I was on the same road in some parts. It’s like, one day a good stretch of I-95 sinks into the ocean. I don’t have any pictures from this stretch of the journey due to camera issues, but it’s sobering all the same.

This was a really fun trip for me. I got out of Chengdu, if not Sichuan. I hung out with Katia, met some new people, ate some good food, got some exercise, and spent a lot of time on a bus.* All in all, it was a good experience that I would highly recommend. Protip: you should probably do all this hiking in better shoes than Converse hi-tops, though.

*Total time spent in a bus: 26 hours.


2 Responses to “Jiuzhaigou and Huanglong, Part Two”

  1. Anarya Andir May 3, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    Should I mention – I’m extremely jealous!!! :( :( Great post by the way!


  1. Let it Snow « In the Country of Heaven - December 7, 2012

    […] last time I saw snow, I was in Huanglong, Sichuan, over a year ago. So I was definitely happy to see some today and so were the kids. We’re […]

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