We spent some time in the Zhangiajie Forest park, renamed recently after the film Avatar due to where it was filmed. We brought a weekly pass allowing us to go in and out of the park as many times as we liked. We got a cheap hotel fairly close to the gates, with an amazing owner who was willing to do anything for his guests. He dropped people staying there at the park in the morning as a friendly gesture, and even picked us u from our hotel near the main City as part of the deal with the hotel. From Tianmen it was about an hours drive, we loaded all our luggage and drove up the countryside to Zhangjiajie.
On the first day in the park we took it fairly easy. There are many areas in the park and the maps were so confusing. We saw wild monkeys roaming around, stealing food from the locals, they loved stealing handbags and running off with them to find whatever treasures they could in them. Of course when we first arrived, Kraig had a bag of crackers strapped to the outside of this bag, they did not last long! We learnt our lesson fast though and didin’t leave any food on show after this happened! The monkeys were surprisingly tame, although if you did get too close with the camera they were sure to warn you off with screams and barred teeth! There were a few baby monkeys too with their mothers, climbing the trees, and also being taught how to thieve food from the locals!
One of our days was a bit of a crazy day. We had planned to take it easy due to our long treks the day before, once we got into the park, we took a random right, ot far into the park. I believe, from research later on we ended up walking the MASSIVE stairway which lead to Huangshi Village, (from research 3,878 steps all of which were uneven steep and varying, equivalent height of 2-3 ordinary steps each) and further on into the mountains. We got lost alright! With no idea where we were going, and a couple hours into a vertical climb, we hit a small village in the hills, consisting of a couple of wooden houses propped on the hill. We walked through one to be able to continue on route, and purchased a drink and had a rest. Kids were playing with a cat, who was very friendly and came to the tourists to get food. It was so surreal to us that the village was even there in this very remote area, seemingly in the middle of nowhere half way up a mountain ridge. After a while, we decided to continue up, hoping this must surely nearly be the top, but it wasn’t. About another 3rd again of winding stairs. But when we finally did come to the end of the long trail, the views were breathtaking. We had ended up in the six wonders Pavilion. We were however, incredibly tired, and a little confused about where we were! It was getting late in the day and it was fairly quiet which was worrying to us, the park had began to shut down for the evening. We walked until we came to a cable car, we figured this was our way out of the park before it closed, but we just missed the last one, and the guy running it with no English, signed to us that we could not get on. We were directed to one of the mini busses which take you around the park. Whoever we showed our map of our exit point which could get us to our hotel to (there are many) had no clue how we had got stranded so far away. We were drove to various areas and meeting points, eventually, giving up when being kicked off of one of the last operating mini busses at the top of the cable car a 4km trek downhill to our actual exit point, under the cable car. At least now we had a guide of where to go sticking to the cable car. It was an extremely long way. I wish I had a step counter, and a Navigation device to track our route across the terrain. Getting darker by this point, we got somewhere near the bottom. We thought we were by the exit as we came to tarmac roads, as we walked in the pitch black, hundreds of tiny frogs began to appear, we had to tiptoe through them as they made such a loud croak all together in the darkness. Then we found something, finally, a hotel. Ok not our hotel but a hotel nonetheless. We walked in, and after much confusion we were able to get them to call our hotel. We spoke to the manager, who, as he was a very kind man, fund out where we were and came to get us. As it was past 7pm the road access was now open, as during the day there is no entry without permit for park vehicle access only. We were saved! Tired and exhausted we finally got back to our hotel, and laid down on our extremely hard beds… it was a long adventure!
Unfortunately due to the fog we were unable to get great photos of the views we saw, it really was one of them things where you have to actually be there and be surrounded by it all for it to live up to anything you can produce in a photograph the views were stunning and the cliff drops were unreal!