Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Tianmen Mountain

Our final mountains and valleys day saw us travelling to Tianmenshan, a huge mountain to the south of Zhengjiajie. To reach it would take a number of cable cars and a rather unique bus ride.

The cable car station is situated in the centre of the city and rises up and above it.

over the bus and train stations

That's the mountain off in the background and so yes, the cable car does go down into the valley before going back up. Whether its true or not they do make a big deal about it being "the biggest mountain cable car journey in the world" and at 7.5km it did go on, but the view was stunning.

That's just a small bit of the road that hairpins up the mountain. It has 99 bends and when I first saw this on the internet I uttered the "I'd love to go there" empty statement that people usually say. On this occasion however I actually said "I am going to go there" and I'm pleased that I've actually done it. 

I did actually ask the park if it would be possible to ride a bike down; the idea of me skidding around the hairpins like a teenager appealed. However the road is closed to the public and you can only access it on the prescribed park-run buses. In hindsight perhaps I should have approached Red Bull as they seem to have gotten away with pulling a stunt like this...

and they wouldn't let me ride a bike? Grrrr....

Having got to the top of the cable car we went off for a brief walk around the mountain top.

they've built a rather cool walkway around the mountain edge, and with a drop of 4,000ft over the side we were hoping they'd been made properly.

I can't get all of the drop into shot it's so large. That walkway is made of glass just in case being exposed so high up wasn't enough.

Protective footwear on we made our way along it. Actually it wasn't too bad at all. I think we were more preoccupied by the Korean coach parties that were shoving past. (Apparently the Chinese flock to the Forests and the Koreans to the mountains)

This was amazing though, can I use "awesome" again?

A rare shot of me in front of the camera.

You get some sort of scale of just high up we are here.

Having done the walkways we took the cable car back down to the mid-point station from where we'd catch one of the buses to the top of the main peak (the walkways are elsewhere). 

How cool are those hairpins?

So why is this mountain so special, after all there are loads of them here? Well the top of Tianmen has a hole in it and is deemed to be a gateway to heaven.

For the Red Bull guys its also a natural wingsuit challenge. These guys are insane!

The bus drive up was fine, clearly the drivers are so use to the hairpins that they were able to take them at speed and at no point did I think we'd go over the edge. I just wished I could have taken a bike down it.

Having made it up 99 bends to reach the top (actually you start at around 40) to get to the hole requires a further climb up 999 steps. I think the park missed a trick in not having an ice cream van selling Flake 99 ice creams whilst Jay Z' "99 problems" to milk the numerical symbolism a bit more. 

So having successfully ascended the Canton Tower, and made it to the top of World Joyland for the finale of the trip it made sense that I make the ascent to heaven, and leaving Kat and the guide waiting at the bottom I made my way up quickly realising that the higher you went the steeper the steps got. Pausing for a break halfway up I was elated to see Kat making her way up, obviously the regret from having not climbed up was too great to turn down.

So, what was at the top. Actually there was a temporary mine train rail system to help with the construction of a new cable way system. I took this to mean that heaven is just another coaster, although the idea of a zipline all the way down would be insane. 

There is a photo opportunity with the opportunity to leave a message of good luck for others. I did get a great sense of achievement from the climb and it was a great, if tiring, way to finish the trip.

The view from the top, just a shame it's over exposed.

Another breathtaking day and one the one where I felt my organising efforts most rewarded. This is what a great holiday all about; spectacular scenery and an overwhelming sense of achievement :)


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