Wuyishan National Park

The primary tourist drawcard of northern Fujian is Wuyishan, a UNESCO world-heritage listed national park with a diverse range of flora and fauna and many places of interest. We had been told about this park as soon as we found out that we would be working in Fujian, and had always intended to visit but didn't get around to it until our final weekend in Shaowu. The weather all week had been unpleasant so we were worried that our two day trip might be a soaking fiasco but on Friday the sun came out and we were blessed with gorgeous weather all weekend. This enticed Shane to come with us as he had somehow managed to not visit Wuyishan in his six months in Shaowu, so the three of us took a bus on Saturday morning out to Wuyigong, the tourist village right next to the national park.

When we arrived in Wuyigong we checked in to the hotel we had pre-booked with the help of Candy. It turned out to be really swish and comfortable and although the listed price for a double room was 380 Yuan (about $60), we had managed to book it for 100 Yuan! As soon as we left the hotel front door, we were approached by multiple cab drivers who wanted our fare to the park. A quick ride later we met up with the dozens of tour buses in the main car park and walked past the obligatory souvenir stalls into the park.

The park contains a handful of heavily visited tourist sites and many lesser-known natural attractions, historical buildings and monuments. Somehow they have managed to give a romantic sounding name to everything that could conceivably be considered interesting. For example, any rock overhang is called a "cave" and they are usually given a needlessly dramatic name like "Lotus Blossoming Cave" or "Serpent Striking Cave". Nomenclature aside, the park is incredibly beautiful with giant steep mountainous rocks carved out by the many streams that feed into the Nine-Bend River, the feature of the park which winds around many of the most impressive rock formations. A two hour bamboo raft trip down this river is a very popular activity and we saw hundreds of rafts over the weekend.

The thousand square kilometer park has a well-connected network of stone pathways with many staircases, some of which are carved directly into rock faces. One could easily spend a week walking along the pathways, and we found that the most beautiful parts of the park were on the paths in between the designated places of interest. Fortunately, most of the tour groups only visit the famous sites and do not walk around the park much, so most of the time we were by ourselves on the paths.

For the first day, we arrived at the main entry point near Heavenly Tour Peak, the most visited site in the park. To gain entry to any of the popular areas, you need to buy a one, two or three day pass which start at 110 Yuan. We took the scenic route to Heavenly Tour Peak which turned the thirty minute stair climb into a three hour adventure which included a beautiful Taoist monastery. The Wuyishan area has been used for hundreds of years as a place for religous and philisophical refuge, and the park has dozens of temples and monuments to famous figures who have made the area their home over the years.

The view from Heavenly Tour Peak was truly spectacular, encompassing the winding river, sculpted rock formations and green forests. We spent a while here before deciding to take the less travelled path down towards another peak in the park.

This climb down turned out to be the highlight of the day. The first hundred metres of the descent was a single straight flight of stairs carved into a giant rock face with a chain hand rail.

The second half was a stark reminder of the fact that public liability doesn't mean anything in China. The stair case was cut into a nearly vertical cliff face with reinforced concrete hand rails which we clung to for dear life as we descended. In some parts the stairs were only a few inches deep and had streams of water running down them. As we approached each section of the descent, swear words were uttered in amazement as we saw that the new section was somehow more scary than the last. When we finally reached the bottom we desperately hoped that the path we were taking didn't lead to a dead-end as we were not keen to climb back up the two hundred metres we just descended.

Instead of hiking further through the park as we intended, the path took us in a big loop around one of the peaks and we exited the park a little downstream of the ticket office. Had we known about this path earlier, we could have gotten into the park and Heavenly Tour Peak without paying the hefty charge. We then took a taxi to another part of the park and saw a miniature tree garden and a nunnery situated underneath the dramatically overhanging King Peak.

When we returned to Wuyigong we had dinner at a restaurant where the staff tried to get us to eat monkey but it didn't look very appetising as it's scalp was on display. Also, we have a thing about not eating other primates. We retired to an early night in preparation for an early start the next day.

On the second day we took a taxi six kilometres out of town to Water Curtain Cave, where a waterfall drops over a tall overhanging cliff face. You can climb up stairs and stand in between the cliff and the waterfall. We spent the rest of the day walking through the park back towards the town. These peaceful walks along less travelled paths was the highlight of the weekend. Old stone pathways meandered alongside gurgling mountain streams which were as clear as glass and ran through valleys nestled between huge stone peaks. Waterfalls trickled and tumbled over mossy rock faces into the green valleys. Later parts of the walk had us climbing to the tops of ranges and ducking in and out of valleys.

We walked for five magical hours through the park and after scaling a hill crest we found ourselves staring at Wuyigong. We took the bus back to Shaowu, very happy with our weekend's exploration of spectacular Wuyishan.

1 comment:

Rodrigo said...

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