Frogs and ducks in Zhangjaijie
We saw some strange things in China. Some very strange things. But none as odd as a duckling in a bucket on a mountain cable car. Question marks remain over whether this was a beloved pet or a very fresh packed lunch. Quite frankly, we didn’t want to know.
We were in Zhangjaijie, 10,000 squared kilometres of stunning natural beauty and the inspiration for the sweeping forests and hanging cliffs of Avatar’s Pandora. The cable car up Tianmen Mountain, said to be the longest in the world, drops you (and any accompanying birdlife) at the top and from there it’s a half day hike across the scenic area.
This place is not for the fainthearted. Its attractions include a 330m glass lift shaft nailed to the side of a cliff, complete with elevator music to muffle the terrified screams of those in descent.
There’s the Corridor in the Cliffs, a 100m slippery footpath leading to a small platform with only a rickety bamboo rail preventing you from plummeting 25,000ft to your death.
There’s One Step to Heaven, the top of a limestone column only accessible by a vertical metal ladder screwed into the rock face. It was an utterly terrifying climb but with clouds swirling below, it was like being on top of the world.
We had nearly completed the scenic mountain trail when we began to notice some familiar snacks being consumed by our fellow hikers. A McFlurry here, an apple pie there. And, as we rounded a corner, high up above the clouds, we saw it. A massive McDonald’s. Unexpected but not altogether unwelcome. Enticing us in with an eerie recording of Oranges and Lemons on repeat.
Familiar food had proven difficult to come by in the past few weeks. Outside of the cities absolutely no one spoke any English and in one Zhangjaijie restaurant we were forced to resort to animal noises to ensure our order was understood. It wasn’t. When our beef noodles, rice with chicken and grilled fish arrived it was frog with pork and egg. We ate it anyway. We were starving. But where in the world does a cow sound like a frog?
We were a little apprehensive about the journey to our next stop, Jishou. On the train to Zhangjaijie, Elliot had grown close to a lunatic in the next seat, to the extent to which they were sharing earphones…SHARING EARPHONES?! But despite the deep friendships forged, most of our experiences on the Chinese railway were miserable. Trains we so late they invariably left on a different date to that of your ticket, smoking is very much permitted and many passengers opt to purchase a ‘standing’ ticket – which doesn’t mean they stand it just means they share your seat. Still, we climbed aboard. Little did we know we were heading into a disaster zone.
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