The finale to our hiking adventure in Zhangjiajie sounded the most daunting when our tour guide started briefing us the day before on what to expect on day 6 at Zhangjiajie Grand Canyon (张家界大峡谷). She was telling us that there are 4 parts to this attraction, and throughout the journey, we would not have any choice to turn back if we find the way ahead too difficult as visitor traffic is only allowed in 1 direction. As the park is surrounded by tall and steep cliffs, gorges, caves and lake, the first part of the tour would be to walk down 1,680 steps and there is a part where it is inclined at 80 degrees, i.e. very steep! The second part is to take a sled ride. Third, hike on the 3.5km boardwalk for an hour or so, and finally the last part is the easiest, to board a boat and enjoy the scenery.
Some background information on the attraction. This Grand Canyon is not part of Zhangjiajie National Park. Instead it is located in Cili County (慈利县), 15km away from Wulingyuan district (武陵源). It was only officially opened to visitors from 2009 and entrance fee is priced at RMB 120 per adult (about S$24.40), and the boat ride cost an additional RMB 20 per adult (about S$4.10).
With the constant reminders from our tour guide of the steep steps we had to hike on, stressing that if we feel we can’t make it, we should highlight to her as safety is very important, I was kind of worried whether I would be able to make it or not. 😛 After 3 days of continuous hiking, my legs were already giving way. However, a little voice in me made me decide to give it a shot, since I was already there and I shouldn’t waste the opportunity. At most, I’d just buy a walking stick to help me with the hiking and relieve the pain on my knees and legs. 😉
Upon arrival at the entrance of the attraction, we had to queue to board an eco-bus that would bring us up to the top of the canyon. Given that it is a steep-cliff area, before boarding the bus, our tour guide warned that the journey may not be a pleasant one. So throughout the bus ride, I closed my eyes to prevent myself from getting giddy as it was just after lunch so I didn’t want all the food thrown out. Fortunately it was a short ride and soon, a young female guide from the park showed us the way down, starting from the 一线天天梯栈道 (A Strip of Sky Stairway) with the 80 degrees inclination.
At the beginning of 一线天天梯栈道, the steps were pretty easy like the usual staircases you find in Singapore buildings, then after about 5 minutes or so came the super-steep flight of stairs, which I thought I really took a long time to finish. By the time I reached the end of that 80-degrees inclined stairway, my t-shirt was soaked, think mainly due to my anxiety and worry in walking down. 😛 After this it was back to the normal stairway again but they just never seemed to end. Looking back, the 15-minute journey down the gorge felt like eternity to me lol.
Second part of the tour was to take a sled ride on the man-made slide (人工滑道) down the grand canyon, instead of walking down the cliffs. We had to wrap a piece of cloth (gunny-sack material) around our buttocks and wear gloves to protect ourselves.
Well, we had thought it would be easy sliding down, just like our kiddy days when we played on the slide in the playground. But gosh it was totally different from what we had imagined. The gunny cloth on our buttocks created friction and prevented us from moving down smoothly, and we had to constantly use our arms to push ourselves down. After we reached the end of the slide we were all perspiring like mad again, but there was another slide to go through! No other choice right? Since we couldn’t turn back like what our tour guide told us. 😦 It was only when we were on the second slide then my friend found a better technique to make ourselves slide down faster and smoothly. Phew! All of us were so glad when the ride was over!
The third part, which was the 3.5km boardwalk was considered easy as it is relatively flat, although it took us slightly over an hour to reach the end of the boardwalk where we would ride on the boat. The scenery on the boardwalk was heavenly, kind of out-of-the-world and breathtaking! You have to see it for yourself to believe it. 🙂
The boardwalk scenery was so beautiful and tranquil we didn’t want to walk too fast for fear of losing that heavenly feeling soon haha. Finally we reached the pier where we took a much-awaited relaxing 15-minute ride on the boat on the Lake of Magic Spring (神泉湖) after all the physical hard work for about 2 hours. I definitely needed the cool breeze to “dry” my t-shirt which had been soaked after descending the 1,680 steps haha. The scenery was similar to that at the boardwalk so I shan’t bombard you with too many photos again, just 2 photos of the boat and emerald lake. What a sweet ending to our 4-day hiking adventure in Zhangjiajie! 🙂