2 Lǎowài in Zhangjiajjie!

31st May 2021
Photo of 2 Lǎowài in Zhangjiajjie! by Quresh Jawadwala

Ever since arriving in Changsha as of November 2020, almost everyone kept bugging me about Zhangjiajie, boasting very proudly about how the mountain backdrop was used in the movie Avatar. I am no Sci-fi enthusiast and have no intention to watch Avatar anytime soon, so I kept procrastinating on the plans.

It was finally towards the end of May 2021, when my trip to another city was cancelled that I jumped on last-minute plans to visit Zhangjiajie with a work colleague.

The trip to Zhangjiajie via High-speed train is not an express service. Still, more of a leisurely outing infiltrating through numerous tunnels with scenic countryside farms, producing an abundance of fruits & vegetables with dilapidated houses completing a perfect bucolic image.

Soon I slumbered on my upgraded first-class seat, only to be woken up by the ticket guard asking me to evacuate as the train arrived in Zhangjiajie.

Once our IDs checked and satisfied that we were not undercover spies, we haggled with the taxi driver, who was so fed up that he knocked off 8 yuan, more to just get rid of us as we headed to our hotel, which was a family-owned operation.

After refreshing, some thorough guidance and a map from our hotel owner, we headed to a local restaurant for some late lunch, where we were entertained by a Tujia folklore (one of the ethnic minorities of the region). After having increased our BMI, we strolled to the National forest park.

It is a straightforward procedure to hop on and hop off the bus, which drives you around through different points of interest. Still, it is just about confusing enough for us to get lost, which was a blessing as we managed to hike some areas rarely visited by the Chinese (they tend to follow the same pattern rather than exploring).

Every now and then, we would have a glimpse of human activities or Macaque monkeys who had eyes on us prying for anything to feed them, and when we didn't, they snatched my beloved Oreo cookies from the rucksack.

We continued our hike the next day, witnessing some fantastic views permeating into our memories forever. Zigzagging using an elevator, cable cars and even a chuk chuk train (without the actual chuk chuk) descending one summit through steep stairs, with our shattered hamstring, stiff calves but with a refreshed and healthy mind.

Zhangjiajie glass bridge promotes itself enough to make it a mandatory visit. It appeals to adrenaline junkies like myself, giving a brainpan challenge for a bungee jump at a stomach-churning staggering height of 260 metres while appreciating stunning views of the surrounding Wulingyuan wilderness.

So obviously, I did what I had to, skipped the jump, and commenced my next adventure of a zip line, which dispenses imposing views of the canyon, the bridge and the waterfall while you are bolting at supersonic speed. At the same time, my co-traveller chose a more subtle way of using steps and elevator inculpating his vertigo.

After accumulating my breath, the next phase of the descent is a winding 600 metres slide that exerted enough pressure on my prat to lose my walking ability for a minute.

After reuniting with my companion, we continued our final excursion strolling through the canyon, passing through treacle waterfalls, on a wooden plank appreciating crystal clear waters along with peace & serenity.

A journey that inspired me to visit these peaks again, but not inspired me enough to watch Avatar. YET!!!