Blurry eyed and still half asleep I heat some water and stand impatiently as it comes to a boil, I’m up early, much earlier than usual and honestly…I didn’t even know the sun came up at this hour. The water comes to a boil and I throw in some tea, taking a sip, I sigh, squint my eyes and look outside its 8:30 in the morning, I guess my day has begun. I’m up today because I want to get out of this city, the noise, the crowds, the streets…it’s all been adding up lately and I need a break. I was told of a great place that has exactly what I am looking for, I’ll head there for the day and get some of that “fresh air” that I hear others talking so much about.
It’s called Cui Huashan and it’s about an hour south of the city, as I sat thinking about the beautiful trees, fresh air, and relaxing atmosphere my teas gone cold…hmmm I hope it’s not going to be one of those days. So I pick myself up, look down at my tea shake my head and grab my day pack. Now to be honest I did a little research into where I was going before waking myself up at the early hour of 8:30.
Cui Huashan should first off be explained as different from Hua Shan (Hua Mountain), they are not the same place, the same environment, or even hold a similar likeness. They are at different parts of the same mountain range (Qinling Mountains) but that is about all they have in common. In fact in Chinese the name Cui Huashan actually means Prettier then Hua Mountain, so really they are in competition. Another point is that Cui Huashan really doesn’t involve much climbing, I mean it can if you wish it but it isn’t a mountain trek or really even a hilly trek, and that’s good because let’s face it, I’m lazy.
Out the door I head to the south gate, I am amazed at the amount of people on the street at this time of morning, I wish I knew if it was a weekday or not but as it is, I’m just happy to not have forgotten my house key. From the inside of the wall I get onto a south bound number 600 bus, it’s double decked affair and it costs me 1RMB, I’m heading to the TV Tower stop (Dian Shi Ta). I should have drank a little more tea this morning, I feel like half my body is still cozy and sleeping back in my apartment, luckily the ride is about 20 minutes and allows me to wake up, unluckily it seems that half of Xian’s population has decided to ride the same bus as I am...but soon enough they disembark and I am sitting across from a one toothed old man with those big round glasses and Deng Xiao Ping jacket, he smiles at me and rubs the hair on my leg, that makes me smile and I wake up a little, enough to realize I forgot to bring sunscreen…it is turning into one of those days.
At Dian Shi Ta I get out of the bus and quickly find the bus 905, it’s a single floored bus that looks just like every other city bus at the same stop. I hop on, pay my 4RMB, and settle in to watch the scenery change from big buildings and wide streets, to country stores and rural roads, it takes about 45 minutes and drops me off on the main street of a small town at the base of the Qingling Mountain range.
There are two reasons for this town, the college and Cui Huashan, so looking around all I see are things for college students and things for travelers, at every turn there are the motorized pedi-cabs calling out to me to hop in and they will ride right to the gate of Cui Huashan for 4RMB per person. This little town itself isn’t anything that I want to walk around in but I don’t feel like jumping into yet another vehicle and so I begin to walk.
It’s a straight shot up the road to the entrance gate, about a 30 minute walk in all, but after about 10 minutes the city noises fall away, the paved road turned to gravel and I find myself out of the city limits, with intermittent country restaurants and inns on the left and the foothills on the right I sigh…less than an hour and a half ago I was in the center of Xi’an, with it’s noises and congestion. Glimpsing the last of the morning fog burning off the mountain sides, listening to the babbling stream, the birds singing, and smelling the fresh air I realize that this is exactly what I needed.
The rest of the 20 minute walk is spent wondering past just opening restaurants, old buildings, and an abandoned concrete factory from the Cultural Revolution. The silence it punctuated by the moto drivers slowing down and beeping their horns in order to tempt me into their services but a quick shake of my head and they’re off, sooner then I expect the gate looms ahead and I have truly arrived at Cui Huashan.
The tickets at regular price are 70RMB or if you have a student card it’s 45RMB. I pay my money and walk in, there waiting are little open-air cars that for 11RMB take me on a 10 minute ride to Heaven Pool. It would have been possible to walk it in about 45 minutes but this road is quite steep, and after walking the past 30 minutes I need a break…hey what can I say I’m lazy.
This open air-car takes me up the mountain road and through quite a long tunnel where it drops me off. While it is possible to ride this car all the way to the lake, the point right after the tunnel is the trail head for the trail to the lake, it’s paved the entire way, not steep at all and a great place for to really get away from everything. I sling my pack, set my eyes on the trail in front of me, I take my first step, stumble and fall, that’s when I realized I forgot to tie my shoes when I left this morning.
Walking on the path I come across several places of interest, Windy Peak, Frozen Cave, and the Bat Cave, all of these are pretty much as their described and all provide a varying atmosphere on my way to the lake. While making my way through the Frozen Cave I had the exceptional luck of having the ice cold water drop from the rocks above right down the back of my shirt, causing me to squeal like a stuck pig which in turn caused no less then three small children to start crying out of fear…yes, parents were thrilled and I was shivering, I quickly moved on to the lake.
The trail comes out next to the only hotel on the lake, the rooms here are 250RMB for a single and I really I am only looking for a day trip so I walk on. To the right I walk along the road and come to the swimming area, they also have the clear plastic bubbles they put you in and then laugh as you attempt to walk on the water. It’s an interesting experience and one that will provide hours of hysterics for family and friends through the home video that will inevitably be shot.
Back towards the hotel there are power boats, jet skis, row boats and paddle boats all that cost about 30RMB for various amounts of time, the rule is the slower the mode of transportation the more time you get so for 30RMB on the paddle boat you get 30 minutes. I paddle out to the middle of the lake and I am about as far away from another person as I have been in a long time, the breeze picks up and without my noticing blows my little boat to the far side of the lake, I have about 15 minutes to paddle a kilometer…so much for the rest and relaxation.
There is also a zip-line you can try for 30RMB, it’s a round trip ride and looks fun but after the paddle boat incident, which I made back in my time limit (just barely), left my legs sore and my stomach empty. It was time for lunch.
There were several people waiting around looking to take me to their restaurant just down the road a little further and so I went with an older woman who promised the best and cheapest food…it turned out to be neither, I’m not exactly how I could avoid this issue but the big hotel served what looked like a nice lunch and it wasn’t too expensive, none of the restaurants had an English menu anyway so maybe the big hotel would have been the way to go, but I’m not endorsing their food, I mean I never actually ate any of it.
After my lunch I wondered around a little more and found out that in the winter they have skiing so maybe that’s something I will look at doing in winter, but that day I was tired and sun burnt, it was time to go home. I hopped on the little open air stop that was across from the parking lot paid my 11RMB and they drove me back to the gate. From there I paid the same little open-aired car driver 3RMB and they drove me right down to the little town where the bus 905 was waiting.
The day was over and I was a new man, even with a sun burnt face, skinned knee, and wet shirt I was happy. Arriving back into the city center on the 600 bus I no longer minded the crowds or the noise, I had gotten some of that “fresh air” the others had talked about and it was wonderful, I felt great. Beautiful scenery, not that expensive, and actually getting out of the city, this could be a new leaf, I might get out more often, exercise a little more, a new me. Maybe even wake up earlier from now on…well let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves.