Magic Mountain

So it had taken me a while to get here, l had asked for directions in town at the local market, which was bustling with the locals going about picking up their supplies, than they would head back to their village.
I had overheard a conversation and noted that a wiry looking fellow had spoken a few words in english, so l excitedly wandered over to ask him directions on how to get to this particulararea, in a very quick motion he flicked out a pen and paper and went about drawing what l figured was a very detailed map, how anyone could concentrate with so much commotion going on was staggering, l could barely hear myself think, but l must say l was impressed with the detail that was going into this map.
I almost began to feel like l was on a quest to find some hidden treasure. He than uttered something in my ear and pointed at the map, l nodded in response but was unable to make out what exactly he was talking about, the noise around us was making me feel slightly nauseas, in-between the smells and the livestock that was being boiled alive in front of me and than barbequed, l had passed out and the next thing l knew, here l was surrounded by onlookers all curious to know whats happened to the Western guy on the floor.
To make matters worse l could barely breath the air was so tight, at that moment in time the man with the map tapped me on the chest and pointed his finger toward the centre of the map, you must get going he motioned to me, so l was helped up of the ground and given some water, still wobbly on my feet l managed to grab the map and after grabbing some supplies and thanking the locals for their help l started making my way towards my destination.
I figured l could make it there before nightfall, boy was l wrong. 2 days had passed, fatigued and totally spent, there was an air of despair hanging over me, l collapsed in a heap and awoke 3 hours later, the wind and rain cutting to the bone, chills running up and down my body, l forced myself up onto my feet, the rain so heavy in my eyes it was difficult to see 2 feet in front of me.
But l couldn’t bare the thought of being out here another night. So l pushed on through the driving rain, any thoughts of time and days had eluded me, totally in the moment, it may have been hours or days but finally l arrived, the smoke from the open fires drifting out of the chimneys into the valley stirred my senses. It was a sight to behold. Magic Mountain.Darren J.

Moon Hill, Yangshuo

Moon Hill is another famous sight. Located approximately 8 kilometres south of Yangshuo, a great way to get there is to hire a pushbike in town and ride there – the views along the way are super and the traffic is not overly crowded.

I always prefer to get around town on a motorbike – a little more dangerous, but the amount of ground you cover is worth it. The surrounding countryside in Yangshuo is definitely worth seeing and with limited time I like to see as much as possible. Especially in more remote regions there is just so much on offer.

One morning I spent 5 hours cruising around the remote villages and towns, greeting the locals (who by the way don’t see to many westerners) and taking in the landscape. It was a beautiful morning with the wind in my hair and the open road ahead of me, I just love it…….. anyway, back to Moon Hill.

There is no mistaking Moon Hill, also known as “Bright Moon Peak”. With its distinctive geological shaped arch and massive hole in its peak, you can see it from a mile away. With different points of view, the massive hole in the arch takes on ‘Moon-like views’, ranging from full Moon, a half or even crescent Moon.

The walk up takes about 30-40 min, dependent upon fitness. The stone path is very well layed out, but with the late afternoon approaching I had to keep pushing on up the mountain, unable to take a few snapshots of the arch. Also, I was more interested in reaching the ‘peak’.

The adventure really starts when you hike up beyond Moon Hill viewing platform, along more of a natural winding steep dirt track which can be very slippery after rainfall, which I encountered on the way down.

Once reaching the ‘peak’, the first thing I noticed (apart from the spectacular views) was the refreshing breeze, which was soothing after a strenuous hike. A few more photographers made the climb up and enjoyed what was a truly memorable experience.

Darren J.

moon hill, sunset, yangshuo, guilin, china,

Lao zai Shan Mountain “Friendship Pavilion”

In September this year I spent two weeks in China. I have always wanted to see the Karst Mountain Peaks in Guilin, so I decided to make Lao Zai Shan (mountain) in Xing Ping my first stop.

I had arrived in Old Xing Ping Town on a bamboo raft river cruise, along the beautiful and majestic ‘Li Jiang River’. Taking in two hours of the most spectacular scenery, the still waters and Karst Mountain peaks had me gasping for air with every turn of my head; I was in total awe of the surrounding landscape.

With my feet back on solid ground and my suitcase stored away in my home-stay, I decided to have a guide lead me up to the top of Lao Zai Mountain for an evening sunset shoot, unbeknownst to me that the climb up the mountain was over 1000 steps along a very uneven path with steep rocks.

The weather was hot and humid and the air was still. Before what I assumed was the half way point, my t-shirt and shorts where drenched and sweat was continuously pouring from my body, taking into account I was carrying over 20kgs of camera gear and tripod on my back. My guide had gestured several times to help carry my gear, but I declined, thinking the climb would not be so arduous.

There was a stage in the climb where I gestured to my guide that I wanted to go back down, but he pointed his finger in an upward direction and somehow assured me we had nearly reached to top, so on we marched.

Before reaching the top there is a 5 metre climb up a rickety old ladder, and trying to manoeuvre up and down with a camera bag and tripod in tow is very tricky and requires concentration. Once reaching the Pagoda, make sure you scramble up a little further over some rocks to get the best views, which are claimed to be the best in the region. Make no mistake about it, the views really are spectacular.

I climbed the Mountain twice during my 5 days in Xing Ping and will be heading back there in late April 2012, hoping for more atmospheric weather with mist and fog rising in the peaks.

Be sure to carry lots of water, and I do mean bucket loads, and a good telephoto lens to capture the layers of the Karst peaks. Sunset is the best view looking North over Xing Ping to Yangdi. If you need any advice or would like to join my tour next April, feel free to message me.

Darren J.