For the rest of the day, we just wandered around the mountain trying to see how our map had anything to do with the maps all around the park. Trails lead everywhere, up steep mountains and down to ravines and lookouts, but it’s not at all obvious where you are at a given moment and we spend most of our time either thinking we’re lost, or actually being lost. There was one goal in mind: to avoid repeating the previous morning’s sunrise hike to a spot that was supposed to be less than five minutes away.
Being lost in a pretty place makes things easier to tolerate. The afternoon was filled with views and vistas from all around the park. The middle of the day doesn’t make for the best photos, but we made do, and we had definitely scoped out tomorrow’s sunrise vantage point. We bumped into tourists from dozens of countries, and even saw some local short tailed monkeys. Park rangers were very keen to ensure everyone kept their distance.
On our way to a new sunset viewpoint we noticed the crowds thinning to a point where we were actually alone. It was an odd feeling as Huangshan is packed everywhere, but as we pressed on we were able to discover why: the trail was closed. I guess everyone else had tour guides to explain the dead end. No matter, there was a lovely bridge with low angle sunlight still hitting it on the way, and it felt good to be alone. As we hiked back, we passed a party or two heading out towards the dead-end. We wanted to tell them of the folly, but the language barrier meant they had to discover it on their own.
The next morning we donned the red hotel coats once again and struck out for our pre-selected spot. The area we had found was narrow, like a small pier jutting out slightly into the canyon. We were the second pair of people there, and then, suddenly, the pair with the perfect spot, left, leaving us with prime spots to view the forthcoming sunrise.
The little pier started to fill up long before the sun arrived. People pressed against and we hoped the railings would hold. One man set up his tripod, a great plan as people made a bit of room for him. A pair of older women kept trying to push passed us. Finally, we relented so they could take a shot. When we demanded our four-in-the-morning-earned spots back, they promptly squeezed passed us and we would trade back and forth now and again throughout the sunrise making them very happy.
The women nearest to me kept peeking at the LCD on the back of my camera and tried to ask me how I was taking a picture like that, but explaining to her how to turn off the flash of her point and shoot was beyond Mandarin language skills.
There was still no “sea of clouds” which delights visitors and makes for the stunning photos that lured so many tourists to this spot. Still, this morning was clearer than yesterday. At 6:09 am, the sun officially rose somewhere, but had many minutes before it would come out from behind some spiky rock formations blocking our view.
At the sun’s first gleam, I set the camera to autowind and fired off dozens of shots. In retrospect, the sun looks pretty much the same in China as it does in Colorado, so I am not sure what motivated me to get up so early. After breakfast we’d be packing and hiking down, so there’s a big day ahead.