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Up HuangShan (13th Nov)
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  I fall asleep somehow, without eating and showering. How can I not in such a beautiful surrounding?

At 3am, I wake up to see a full sky of bright stars. In HK, light pollution is covering up these stars. It's only under a different sky that I get to see them. So beauti .. ..

Wait! What is this big itch at my back!!?? I reach for my back and my waist and I feel big hard masses all over. It's flea bite!! It must be the dirty seats on that bus! Gosh, it's soooooo itchy.

So there is the stars twinkling up in the sky, and there is this bad flea bites twinkling at my back. That renders me semiconscious until dawn.

  7:37am, after breakfast and a taxi ride, I am at the gate of HuangShan. The much anticipated hike is about to start .. ..
A bunch of local tourists get their briefing: "ok, don't  litter, don't spit on the ground, don't shout, don't fall over the cliffs.. .. nay, you will do them all anyway. Let's don't waste time."  (just kidding, they will probably skip doing "falling over cliffs".   I am taking the back road because I figure a hike up the much tougher front road could be devastating for the unprepared me.


Here are a few starter PICs.
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img_2822.jpg img_2823.jpg img_2827.jpg
  It's not easy going up the back road either. It's November, it's 4,000+ feet above sea level and the wind is blowing right through my thin windbreaker. Around 10am, I feel a cramping in my legs. My gosh, I am old. I will probably have a head of white hair by the time I get to the top.
  While I am feeling old and am slowing down to cope with the cramping, I run into a young local backpacker. (Yes, a Y-O-U-N-G guy. Perfectly timed irony sent by someone above ) I am ready to take a look at a mainland Chinese's point of view. 

He says China's system is so old that it can't catch up with the rapid growth in tourism in the past few years. The Tourist Bureau is so corrupt that it allows various parties to make money out of great sceneries but not putting enough back to preserve them. My guess is that the Tourist Bureau doesn't even know the great sceneries can be contaminated. That sounds like the nightmare I had in YiXing, and this nightmare could be a national problem.

But that is no excuse for not coming to visit. On the contrary, I think I have to come ASAP before the next pine or rock disappears.

Kam gets overjoyed in the most beautiful mountain of China.
(Kam is not religious. The Tee wrapped around the head is to prevent his ears from freezing.
  HuangShan has 4 "ultimates": strange pine, weird rock, sea of clouds & hot spring. Up in the mountain, we expect to see the first 3.

  Strange Pine

HuangShan's pine is no regular pine. It's scientific name is Pinus HwangShanensis Hsia. Needs no botanist to tell it's a species closely related to HuangShan. 

Most HuangShan pines grow between attitude of 2,600-6,000 feet. Coldness (average 46F) and fogginess (256 foggy days/year) together sculpt the special character of HuangShan pine. HuangShan pine's roots secret an acid that dissolves granite rocks so that the roots can eat deep into cracks for hold, water and nutrients.

Mr. Pine says "I am not straight".
"Me no straight too".
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Needs no soil.
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Weird Rock
img_2864.jpg Kam rarely remembers names for specific scenic spots. This one is an exception. It's call "Rock from Nowhere". For size reference: the rails is about waist high.

Weird rock, isn't it?

More rocks .. ..
Oops, no weird rocks in this PIC but I am too lazy to move it elsewhere.
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  Sea of Clouds

In my opinion, the sea of clouds is the soul of HuangShan. Without it, the beauty of pines and rocks stays at the visual level. It's only when they are in the sea of clouds that they can touch one's heart.

HuangShan's sea of clouds is unpredictable and mysterious. I remember when I visited 1985, I saw a nice pine tree 400 feet away on the other side of a valley. I pointed the camera. I adjusted the settings. And I looked up. The pine was gone! It was all whiteness in the valley. I turned in amazement to my friend, blah, blah, blah, blah .. .. and turned back, the pine tree was standing there as if nothing had happened. The whole valley was nice and clear! Later we discovered that the trick was played by clouds riding on quick wind. 

Yet when the clouds are calm, it baths the whole HuangShan universe. Colors fade, everything is turned into harmonic black and white. Rocks and pines disappears into the clouds, and then rocks and pines reemerges from the clouds. For rocks and pines you can see, they are beautiful; for rocks and pines you can't see, they are even more beautiful when your imagination fills in missing details (this beauty of incompleteness happens to be one of the philosophy behind Chinese art).

img_3130.jpgUnfortunately, the sea of clouds is not gonna show in this 2001 visit. The best I can do is to show you this PIC on HuangShan's notice board. Hope to have better luck the next time I visit.

  Hot Spring?

Come on. That is too luxurious for a lone backpacker. Maybe next time when I have a pleasure trip with a girlfriend.

How about this to wrap up a day's sight-seeing? img_2873.jpg img_2886.jpg Hot pot buffet with my temporary roommate from Brazil. Heaven is on earth tonight as we have all- you-can-drink beer. We chat from 6:30pm to 11pm and now I know Brazil has more than a soccer team. Cheers.
  Gonna catch sunrise tomorrow! But tonight, I have to battle the flea bites again.

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