“Xi” means west “An” means peace
Huashan scenic area
So today we decided that we were going to change our itinerary made by gadventures. We were meant to have a fairly chilled day, cycling around the wall of xi’an and having an orientation walk around the Muslim quarters. Instead most of the group wanted to go to the Huashan scenic area. Some wanted to go for the spectacular view, but I wanted to go to experience “the plank walk in the sky”. I had seen a few bloggers write and post pictures but I didn’t ever think I would get to go so when I heard someone else was interested and said they’d organise the day I jumped straight onto the opportunity.
We had to wake really early to catch a 7.30am train. We decided due to the language barrier it would be wise to get there early and have a few questions and phrases such as “where are the toilets” “how much to huashan mountain” typed in Chinese on our phones to prevent wasted time. Although we all said it was going swell and we felt confident after we had faced the first hurdle (getting to the station via taxi) we had spoken to soon. By the time we worked out which kiosk we needed to go to (which took 20 minutes as all signs were in Chinese) the staff members mimed out there were no seating tickets left. As it had taken so long we didn’t want to waste any more time so just grunted and paid for standing seats.
To our fortune there were a few spare seats around so 20 minutes into the journey we all were able to sit. Upon arriving at the other end of the station we tried to haul two 4 seater taxis. We had read on tripadvisor we should only pay 10-15yuan at most, but we struggled to haggle that low. When the taxi drivers accepted 20yuan for each car we gave up and accepted. Half way through the journey the police pulled us over. Obviously not being able to speak the language we all sat oblivious to what was going on and what was being said. I however noticed our driver looked very scared and his hands were shaking. By this point the police had taken his passport and drivers license and pointed towards the road. He continues to drive us to a back street where the other taxi was. One person from our group pulled the window down and shouted “tell him to take us to the entrance”, so I did and the driver drove straight to the front gate.
After paying the driver we pieced the puzzle together to work out what had just happened. The other taxi had also been pulled over, but their taxi driver had spotted the police in front and therefore quickly switched his meter on. He then said to the group “meter, meter” whilst point to the radio looking meter. The police inspected the front dashboard and told him to continue. Our driver had not spotted the police and had not switched on the meter and so the police knew we were being ripped off.
The back street situation is apparently common amongst taxi drivers abroad and some people in the group were aware of this trick from last experience. Apparently the drivers mates were going to sell us fake tickets to the scenic area!
Although I was taken back by the past 4 hours of travel I’m SO glad I had experienced it with the group. If I had been on my own I question whether I would have been naive and gone along with it. If we had stayed and done something with our tour guide it would have been plain sailing like every other day. It was nice to have a comparison of solo travelling and guided travelling. I certainly wouldn’t have been able to travel china alone, purely because of the language barrier (which I didn’t think would have been so limited) but this day had taught me quite a bit about being nifty and aware of being ripped off which I wouldn’t have experienced if we had stuck to the gadventures itinerary. My mum likes to say “no experience is a wasted experience”. Lesson learnt.
Anyway, when we finally got to the mountain we had to trek an hour and a half up the mountain to the central part where you can either fork off to the west, south or east. It was a continuous uphill climb, step after step. It was tiring but I found the beating sun made me sweat more than the actual exercise.
The views from the top were stunning. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so high from sea level before apart from flying.
The plank walk in the sky
We forked off the to south peak as this was where the plank walk was situated. It took us an additional 30 minutes to get there but it was nothing like the previous climb up.
We were provided harnesses and were pointed to the queue. However, we had no instructions on how to move our clasps, what to hold on to, what the route was, how long it lasts etc. It felt like we were in a line leading each other to the unknown. The blind leading the blind.
The decent down to the plank was the most terrifying section. We soon worked out people were coming up when others were going down. Similar to the heavenly ladder but this time we were strapped in. Although that would sound like it was safer, it actually felt worse. The reason being people coming back up were bulldozing through the people coming down. I’ve learnt in China a few elbow shoves can get you a far way, but an elbow shove on this decent was definitely something I didn’t want to receive or give!
When we eventually got down we could see the plank. I felt a mixture of thrill and recklessness. It was a 700 foot below but somehow after a few minutes of the plank we were walking casually like we’d had done it a million times before.
When we got back to Xi’an we went to Muslim quarters. I’m so glad we didn’t do it in the day because it was buzzing at night. There were people selling fresh pomegranate juice, toffee buts, meat on sticks etc. The food was delicious, but I made sure didn’t get too adventurous as I don’t want to get ill whilst I’m alway.