Another mountain we were looking forward to see and hike was Mount Huashan. We were interested in hiking as it has some beautiful scenery and some challenging sections like steep steps in the rocks with chains to help you get to the top and a very narrow ledge and planks to get to a cave.
Mount Huashan is one of the 5 Great Mountains in China with lots of Taoist temples and monasteries (but also some Buddhist ones) and many people go to one of the tops of the mountain for worshiping, like a pilgrimage. This means it’s very busy on some of the tops as you can take the cable car to either the North or the West peak, a pilgrimage for the modern Chinese… We chose to do it the ‘hard’ way and hike from the bottom.
At 6 in the morning we were on the trail, it would take us 12 hours to get back to the car again… The trail we took takes you past North peak and many cable car riders were swarming around it when we got there. We continued to East peak for morning tea and then on to South peak for lunch.
But before we were allowed to enjoy our lunch Jon had to conquer his fear of heights again so we could walk on the tiny ledge made out of wooden planks to the cave. These wooden planks are attached to a sheer granite cliff and you look down on at least a 500m drop as you stand on the planks. Beautiful views, a glance into the tiny cave and a sense of relief were the awards after shuffling there and back on the ledge. He did it!
We looped back via West peak and finished on North peak after I had dropped our camera, not good! Luckily a few days later we managed to find a replacement as we love our compact Sony!! Fingers crossed we get some money back from our insurance…
At the Longmen grottoes we still didn’t have a new camera, but we did by the time we got to the Yungang grottoes. We were lucky to convince staff to sell us their last Sony DSC-HX30. It was the display camera and they didn’t want to part with it, but some begging did wonders – we were prepared to cry but it didn’t come to that. We love it and continue to be impressed with it every day!
The Longmen and Yungang grottoes are both very important Buddhist sites. The grottoes (caves) are covered in Buddha statues, ranging from a few cm to 17m, and there are hundreds of caves. One cave might have just one Buddha statue or carving, some have thousands! And the statues and caves at Yungang still show their paint too, beautiful.
The cultural revolution unfortunately smashed a lot of the Buddhas, especially faces, but even with all the damage they were beautiful. No offerings are (allowed to be?) left here, but many people still pay their respect to the Buddhas by placing their hands together in front of their face and bowing 3 times.
Last holy stop for us in China was the hanging monastery, built into the cliffs to avoid the rushing water of the river, it looks impressive from a distance. And from a distance is all we looked at it. We were not interested to pay 124 yuan each ($21) to see a small monastery we could see from the entrance gate. I guess we had had enough of the high entry fees of China. Instead we went for a walk whilst waiting for some of the others who did want to go inside. The walk took us up the mountain to a small shrine and then on to what seemed the back entrance of the monastery! We enjoyed the views and the peacefulness of this small temple before picking up the others.
Just to give you an idea of how much we actually spent on entry fees for ‘attractions’ we’ve added this lovely pie chart. As you can see the only thing we spent more on in China is fuel:
PS A quick update on our current Mongolian situation:
After waiting for a little over a week for our new differential to arrive from the UK we pick it up on Friday afternoon (20 July), unfortunately it is too late in the day to finish fitting it. Stuck for another day in UB, shit!
They have finished the standard 10.000km service yesterday and had to replace 3 suspension bushes and a cracked steering arm! It does sound like we’re in capable hands and they know what they’re doing.
The guys at Wagner (the UB Land Rover dealer and garage) have also over the past week worked their arses off on Lara. Before Naadam they worked on their day off AND till 3.30 AM (yep, into the middle of the night!) to get us our car back as 2WD!!! Always friendly, even calling us on their day off to check progress of the new diff. Jon even went for drinks with them. We couldn’t have been more lucky with their help!
Today Jon arrived back at the flat around lunchtime, extremely down and frustrated. Lara is still incredibly down on power and belches out black smoke after fitting the new parts. So much black smoke the police pull him over on the test drive! Feeling really low we wonder if we’re ever gonna get out of here as the mechanics leave for their 2 hour lunch break just after plugging her into the diagnostic system…
But luck is finally on our side when Jon sends me an email a few hours later: she is fixed and has all her power back! A hose had come off at some point… We’re now about to hit the road again, anxious to get as many kilometers done before nightfall tonight!
We had already said goodbye to Ian (the brother of Andy who is a good friend of Marjolein – thanks guys for putting us in touch!) as he left for Bali on Thursday. He has been our fantastic host and saving angel during our time in UB and we can’t thank him enough!! We’ll be in touch!