This morning I woke-up at 6.30am to get the bus at 7.30. The station for my bus is close to the hostel (there are several bus stations in the city). I won’t be able to say goodbye to the very kind hosts because they’re still sleeping.
Just arrived at the bus station and it’s 7.10am. I’m told the bus leaves at 7.15 instead of 7.30. Really, transport in China is more than punctual…! You are better off having some margin. In the haste I wonder if I took the correct bus..? The sun is on my left hand side, so we are going South, it is the correct direction.
In a typical Asian bus
The bus is a real shaker. Firstly up and down on the motorway and larger roads then from left to right when we start on the small mountain roads.
Another bus driver that believe in his seven lives: he is over taking trucks that are over taking carts while passing double white lines or in road turns…
During the journey the driver stops at a police control in the middle of nowhere to show some documents. Then we stop at a petrol station. Five minute break for everybody.
Arrival in the 5 mountain’s valley
We finally arrive “quite quickly” in the 5 mountains’ valley (Wu Tai Shan) around noon. We pass the junction between East peak and North Peak to continue down into the valley. We arrive at the toll gate. This one is for visitors therefore like the other passengers I buy my tickets before passing, walk the toll and get back on the bus.
I realise we are not in Beijing nor Shanghai. The information in English is limited to a minimum: ”the price”.
We arrive at the terminus at the centre of the valley. I take the first shuttle to the heart of the valley then I look for the connecting shuttle that goes to the branch where my hostel is located. There is no bus stop, but instead a woman waiting by the roadside. I understand more or less that the shuttle should come soon. As a shuttle a ordinary van appears that you need to recognize and stop. I am glad I was not alone.
The hostel hunt
Further down the road the woman to whom I had shown a map of where I wanted to go, tells me I have to get out of the van. She probably cant read neither Chinese, Latin characters or maps. I try asking people around but they are only interested in selling me jewellery or a horse ride to a nearby temple (most probably not understanding the map I have in my hands either). After about ten minutes walking around I realize that I’m not in the correct place. I’m back on road this time walking and another ten minutes later I find a sign to the hostel. The hostel is very basic, like my hosts English, but friendly and clean.
I have three maps and none of them are complete. I will try to combine them to improve accuracy. I will also try to know how I can get back in to the heart of the park when I exit (going from North peak to East peak).
I need to get all these details before I launch an assault to the summits and some more information on the train I need to get in three days.
Starting with the last point
I have not yet moved from the hostel, but as usual I start by the most important point.. How to leave this place:).
Cross referencing Maps, Google translate and tickets I get the information. I need to get on two buses that will take me to the closest train station (60km outside the valley). Usually it is a matter of 1h45min by car, but considering how buses work I will need to take two of them to catch my train at 2am. I think it will take me half the day and it will be long evening in the small village of the train station (I shall surely meet some interesting people there:)).
I worked on the maps and got some advice to optimize the start of the day (avoiding a few kilometres on the road and seeing one more temple).
It is 4.30pm and I only have 2hr to look for food for tonight and tomorrow night before the shuttle buses stop running.
Logistics for the Wutaishan trail the next day
Tomorrow I will try leaving around 5.45am to get maximum daylight since the run is very long. There will be alot of altitude variations and probably more than a marathon to run.
I took vitamins and I have plenty of biscuits, raisins, nuts and drinks for tomorrow. In the morning I will have noodles or one of the freeze-dried food I brought from France.
In the end I asked at the lobby where I could find food or a nearby shop. Due to the basic English I have been sent to the only restaurant (of the other hotel) in the village. A Receptionist /Cook is here to greet me. She has hair down to the shoulders and is wearing a black shirt/dress. I’m the only customer and quickly three elderly people from the village that seem to be from the one family as the receptionist gather around me. We have two grannies, short hair, wearing a jacket and trousers like most elderly Chinese women and an old man, grinning that seat down at my table. He is dressed like a hunter with a fluorescent cap glued on his head. His feature’s show his age while he has not many wrinkles. I show him my map. I speak to them the three words I know in Chinese and they seem to be very happy.
One of the grannies said that they should bring me a fork. I had not asked for it, but they bring me one. I keep using the chopsticks, it is more convenient After I finished my giant potatoes dish, my bread and started eating the rice, they offer me a grain soup. They don’t let people go hungry. The receptionist even offers a small discount on the price when I finish before going back to my hostel to start preparing my bag which includes drink and fruit jellies for the next day.
Details and confusions
I get talking with the English speaking Chinese in the hostel. I receive all types of information and advices for the following day. Some good and some contradictory. The paths will be difficult to find but they tell me about a junction between two temples which is on no map. They also say I won’t be able to make it in one day. Anyway, it will be cloudy in the early morning but it should get better. It might be very cold and windy on the peaks but I have all the necessary equipment for that.
I was thinking of doing the run from East to West which is shorter and easier. This was on offer on the message board (as explained by the guests I was speaking too), people where looking for others to share a car going to the East peak.
In the end all the shuttles to the East peak are cancelled for the next day due to the weather forecast. I decided tomorrow will be a good day either way..! I will wake up at 5.20am ready and organized.