Huang Shan typified our impression of traditional Chinese scenic painting, with multiple majestic peaks of black rock poised amongst the omnipresent clouds.
We approached our climb of this mountain from the east, consisting of 3 hours of straight climbing up endless steep staircases. There were no delightful strolls between staircases. It was the proverbial "stairway to heaven". Faye, whose had a 24-hour tummy bug, ended up backing down to the cable car and meeting the three boys at what we thought to be the summit. As with the earlier climb of Tai Shan, the boys (and especially Robin) were troopers and rarely complained of anything.
After a bite of lunch amid the clouds we commenced the trek over top of the mountain toward the western descent line. The views of Huang Shan's many peaks, its thousand-year-old gnarled pines and colourful valleys were spectacular although the walk over the top was much more difficult than anticipated, basically up and down a long series of staircases. We mused over the human capital that must have gone into construction of these extremely well-built and well-maintained staircases although we did not see much evidence of the labourers on site. No words could possibly do justice to the breathtaking views we took in at Huang Shan that day.
After a few hours of trudging up and down stairs among the peaks toward the final western descent, it became clear that neither Faye's tummy nor Robin's little feet would get down the west side that day. Fortunately the cable car came to their rescue (there are 3 cable cars in all serving perhaps thousands of tourists per day) while Adrian and I made the knee-grinding climb down the west side stairs. After about two hours of near-constant jogging down the stairs, he commented that it seemed like we had been descending forever and the end was nowhere in sight. We were now, it seemed, on the (endless) stairway to hell. Ultimately, of course, we reached bottom, with knees wobbling and calf muscles and quads in dire pain, and met up with the others.
We were also fortunate at Huang Shan to have had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of one Mr. Hu, resident in the village at the foot of the mountain, whose young daughter and her various local girlfriends were entranced with Robin. We ultimately fondly dubbed the village hosting Mr. and Mrs. Hu's tiny restaurant (of which we were at all times the sole patrons) "Who-ville" and his young daughter "Cindy Lu Hu" (the Grinch of course living somewhere at the top of Huang Shan).
The day after the climb, we had most of the day to pass in "Who-ville" before a ride into the nearest city to catch the overnight train to Suzhou. The weather had become very rainy overnight and we were planning to hibernate in our room more or less the whole day. At the boys' second consecutive breakfast of French toast and fried eggs, which had already placed Mr. Hu in their highest possible esteem, Mr. Hu offered to take us to a nearby temperate rainforest preserve of local monkeys which had not been mentioned in any of the guidebooks. We quickly took him up on the offer and were most fortunate to arrive at feeding time to see hundreds of monkeys descending from the forest to chow down on some corn. We learned much about the monkeys' social systems and feeding patterns from Mr. Hu, whose English was (by Chinese standards) excellent and whose only reward came in keeping us company.
As well, a TV crew was on-site, and in addition to filming the monkeys and interviewing the preserve ranger at length, they caught some sly shots of the other fascinating beings (who else, but Adrian and Robin!) for posterity. Unfortunately communications did not permit us to learn when or where the show would be aired.