Article by Thabo Jaffe
The mountains are closer than you think. For a restless outdoors lover like me, the city can, at times, be a stifling mess of lifeless grey buildings. Couple this with the fact that many of us waiguoren are either teachers or students of some form with very little free time, and you can end up feeling like a drained Superman without his fix of sunlight.
Luckily for those of us living within a 15-minute taxi or bus ride of the subway, there’s an easily accessible route to the Qinling mountains via Cuihuashan, named such because of a terribly romantic story about a beauty called Cuihua. Just take Line 2 down south all the way to the 2nd last stop at HangTianCheng and get out at exit B. From there, continue south about 200m to the bus stop for the 905 bus. Beware: you cannot use your bus card here, so carry some small change as the trip will cost no more than 4RMB per person. The ride to the base of the mountain takes, at most, an hour, but stops just short of the entrance to the park in a little town called Taiyi, and you’ll have to take a 10Rmb BengBeng – or Tuk-tuk, as some are wont to call them – to the main gate.
Just pay the 70Rmb entrance fee(less with a student card) and you’re on your way! If you don’t fancy getting lost, pick up a map if you can find one, or take a picture of the large map at the gate, as the one on your entry ticket is just plain miniscule and impossible to read. There are basically 2 paths you can take from the bottom, which lead you in the same general direction towards the Sky Lake in a sort of loop. I had the chance to go up both routes and found them both equally joyous to trek. You’ll quickly find that this park is one of the more developed ones, with (albeit unequal) steps leading all the way up to the Sky Lake and beyond. Along the way, you’ll be greeted by squirrels, breathtaking views of the mountain range, and that voice in your head telling you that you should use that gym membership of yours more often. Before the Sky Lake comes into view, you’ll pass a reportedly 600-year-old tree worth getting a snap of. The Sky Lake itself is a wonder of nature, comfortably nestled between a host of peaks, and serves as a sort of hub, with many routes branching off the loop around it.
On my two trips to Cuihuashan, I was delayed quite a bit by my companions, so I sadly didn’t have a great deal of time to explore the entire park. Some notable points of interest would be the Ice cave (true to its name), the Daoist temple overlooking the lake, and the various peaks surrounding the lake and landslide area. Show up in the winter and you’ll be excited to see hundreds of people failing epically to ski down the seasonally open slope. Overall, a great way to get your superman fix of sunlight and fun.
Get there early – The park opens at 8am and closes at 7pm.
Plan your route – It’s impossible to see the ENTIRE park in one day.
Be prepared to climb an infinite number of steps.
Take plenty of water and snacks, and that gloriously cold beer to cheers with when you get to the top.