Day 30 - 1st May - Hongcun to Huangshan

Plans were carefully laid to try and avoid the crowds. Green, our guide was particularly nervous of what lay install for us, so suggested we get up and on the road by 6.00am. The guest house did not provide  breakfast so we could scavenge on the way, a 40k drive to Huangshan.

All went smoothly. We beat the crowds. When we went to purchase the tickets 230RMB ($46) each plus  90RMB for the buss, the Chinese had a special May Day present for the group: anyone over 65 (or in fact near 65 years old) could get in free. We had seen this previously as Tony had been getting in free to places because he is over 70.

We thought we were up the mountain before the crowds materialised. In fact I think the reason why there were no queues was because we were at the tail end, they were all on the mountain. And the couple who had been missing from yesterday’s crowd of 1.3 billion had also found their way to celebrate May Day walking around the Yellow Mountain.

The tracks are all paved. But there are lots of steep climbs. Our group was properly prepared for the walk given the warnings we received on our not to scale map:

2.           The Yellow Mountain climate change is very big; sometimes sunny it rains sometimes, climbing to take a raincoat, rain windy, unfavourable to open an umbrella. Thunder when it rains don’t climb don’t use hand chain, also unfavourable shelter under the tree. In case the lightning.

I’m sure you get the drift. Walking shoes, some warm gear and a rain jacket seemed prudent. Not high heeled shoes and your Sunday best. We felt somewhat under dressed as the crowds basked in the morning sun.

As we climbed and descended the stairs from mountain top to valley, we felt as though we were in a giant outdoor queue. Everyone was shuffling along the pathway shoulder to shoulder, other than those who had rented a chair carried by coolies. I would have found it embarrassing to be carried along amongst the crowds by a couple of struggling porters while everyone else was on foot. But the couple saw were too engrossed playing on their phones to notice. At first I thought the chairs were to evacuate those who had expired, until I realised you could hire them by the track section.

The crowding lasted until morning tea when it started to sprinkle (see warning above). As no one was carrying a rain jacket, the local vendors made a killing selling yellow ponchos. The standout Sunday best disappeared and the paths became a winding sea of yellow.

The jagged pine covered granite peaks were stunning, but no longer held attraction to the milling masses who headed back down by lunch when the rain increased, the temperature dropped and the wind came up.

Tomorrow we head into Shanghai. Its 450k and while its supposed to be a public holiday for continued May Day celebrations, we aren’t sure whether the toll collectors will be back at work and what the traffic will be like. If the car park ay our hotel is any indication, it would appear everyone will be back at work tomorrow as the place is now deserted.