WULINGYUAN FOREST

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The James Cameron directorial 'Avatar' had imbibed into all of us, an extreme sense of excitement when we witnessed the surreal Hallelujah Hills on screen. Never did we ever think that we would be able to visit a similar place in real world one day.

Photo of Wulingyuan, Zhangjiajie, Hunan, China by Goutham & Thara

This amazing land is situated in North-east China, near a small town called Wulingyuan in the Hunan Province. Several thin pointed hills reminding us of the movie Avatar can be found surrounding this area. Although the pictures from the Internet itself proves to be wonderful, the place in real is much more vast and spectacular. These mountains cover a vast area of over 12,000 acres and hence is impossible to fit in a single photo frame. This place is a national park and has been listed in the world heritage list by UNESCO. Once we get the entry ticket to this national park, the place could be visited back and forth for over three days.The ticket price is 250 Yuan which is nearly 2500 Rs.

Photo of WULINGYUAN FOREST by Goutham & Thara

The nearest airport and railway station is located at zhangjiajie which is about 40 miles far from wulingyuan. There are plenty of accommodation options ranging from cheap youth hostels to expensive luxury resorts, all aimed at serving the tourists who come there. Infact the main livelihood of this place is tourism itself. We chose our stay Tuniu youth hostel. We woke up early in the morning and took a 5 minute walk to reach the entrance of the Wulingyaun national park. Private vehicles aren't allowed there. Transportation is done through shuttle buses. After half an hour of climb in the the bus, we reached the side of a beautiful stream called 'Golden Whip Stream' which ran right below the enormous hills.

Photo of WULINGYUAN FOREST by Goutham & Thara

After a few more minutes of walking, we came straight in sight with the world's largest outdoor elevator, Bailong Elevator, about 330ft high built up of glass and steel and which has also taken a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records. Using the elevator, we went up to reach a beautifully elegant viewpoint of pointy mountains all around us. The Yuanjiajie viewpoint.

Photo of WULINGYUAN FOREST by Goutham & Thara

Furthermore walking for 20 minutes, a crowd was seen near a viewpoint, which was facing right opposite to a tall pointed rocky hill standing as if it is about to collapse any moment. The Hallelujah mountain. It is a wonder how this hill stayed unaffected by the strong winds and rain. The laws of Physics and Mathematics totally seemed to fail in this place. The mountains were covered in a soothing umbrella of green. On misty days when the fog blankets the forests below, it certainly looked as though the tall pointed hills were suspended elegantly atop the sky. The graphics design team of Avatar had learned of this place and replicated the beauty of the hills onto the big screen after which these hills became widely popular in China and outside.

Photo of WULINGYUAN FOREST by Goutham & Thara

After a few minutes of walking, another striking sight caught our eyes. A naturally formed bridge connecting the top of two huge mountains. The locals call this one 'First bridge of heaven'. The Yuanjiajie zone ends with the beginning of this bridge. From here we next moved on to another region of wulingyuan national park, called the Tianzi Zone via bus for a one hour long journey.

During our journey there, we came across a beautiful sight of paddy fields, seemingly stacked upon with utmost obedience. This reminded us of China's Dazhai Village famous for its rice terraces. We reached the Tianzi bus stop which was flocked with European and American tourists. Apparently the 'real life avatar mountains' is quite famous in the western world also. After a hearty lunch at a nearby restaurant, we set off forward.

Photo of WULINGYUAN FOREST by Goutham & Thara

Tianzi zone was rich in mountains than the Yuanjiajie zone. Yuanjiajie zone had round-ish mountains while Tianzi's were more flattened on the sides. On one side of the hilltop walkway, we noticed a young lady belonging to the Tujia Tribe dressed up in fancy clothes and ornaments posing for pictures with tourists. The attire was called as Xilan Kapu. She was charging around 10 Yuan for a picture with her.

Photo of WULINGYUAN FOREST by Goutham & Thara

Dusk had drawn by the time we had covered the Tianzi zone. It was almost time for us to depart and there were two routes to the bus stop below. The easiest and expensive route is via a cable car. The next route is to climb down via steps which was over 4000 in number and carved long before the era of cable cars and elevators. This pathway goes very near those needle hills. Since we were in the mood for an adventure, we opted for the latter and started for the bottom of the mountains.

Photo of WULINGYUAN FOREST by Goutham & Thara

After a few twists and turns we came close to some really steep rock rocks which gave us the perspective of the height of those pillar hills . On our way down, we stopped at some tea stalls for refreshment breaks. Very few people who were returning, opted to choose walking over the cable car service. Hence the climb down was very peaceful. Some even got down through chairs that were carried down by helpers who do it for a fee. We finally reached the bus stop and after a wait of 30 minutes, got into our bus and off we went down the mountains over to Wulingyuan town. As the bus descended the curves and bends of the hill, the wulingyuan town below came into view bathed in its streetlights. Both of us went into a peaceful quiet reminiscing on the day and its seemingly unbelievable experiences.

Photo of WULINGYUAN FOREST by Goutham & Thara

This blog was originally posted on Clueless Compass

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