SHAOYANG, CHINA - It has been a long, tiring day: lots of shopping and sightseeing in Shanghai, then a two-hour flight to Changsha, followed by a two-hour bus ride on bumpy back roads to reach this outpost in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region. But the local beer we sample on our arrival sure tastes good. It takes some effort to reach this natural treasure, but making the pilgrimage to mythical Langshan to see the peculiar-shaped granite peaks make it worth the journey.
Langshan and its mountains are truly magical. The greenery seems a little bit greener, the skies are bluer and the smell of fresh air is intoxicating. The rolling hills and jagged peaks jutting up into the clouds are breathtaking.
With more than 60 scenic spots, including mountains, rivers and lakes, it’s a photographer’s dream. My camera gear and I can’t wait to get started.
The aptly-named Camel Peak is the first stop. It’s a landscape that looks like it belongs on another planet. We gingerly walk through the rain along narrow paths that cling to the mountain side and come across some local hikers.
One of the shy young men asks if he can take a “selfie” with me. I’m happy to oblige. Another asks, too, and before I know it, there’s a long lineup of Chinese teenagers waiting to have their picture taken with me. I’ve finally reached celebrity status!
After bidding my “fans” goodbye, we climb hundreds of stairs to reach Langshan’s peak. The mist and rain make the air feel dewy sweet and a peacefulness prevails in this remote place.
My legs are shaking and I’ve used up all my water when the guide tells me there are “99 more” stairs to climb before we reach the summit.
Exhausted, I push on and when we finally get to the top, we’re greeted by a small wooden statue of a local hero who made this climb a long time ago — when there were no stairs.
Above: Yes, the stairs are frightening but the visual rewards as you climb to the top are stunning.
The guide says those who make it to the statue are rewarded with happiness and longevity for making the journey. The biggest reward, though, is the view from the summit.
The next day when I wake, my legs feel like they’re about to collapse. I can barely walk to the bus and I’m glad there’s a long drive before we reach our first stop, the lovely Fuyi River, which meanders through the Langhsan region.
With the circulation finally returning to my legs, we walk to the entrance of our next stop, the Bajiaozhai Scenic Area, also known as Eight Horns Village, and I see a sign that makes me stop suddenly: “1,777 stairs to reach the summit.”
But the guide promises that the views today will be even better than what we experienced the previous day, so I soldier on.
Just then, a woman wearing five-inch heels trots past me like I’m standing still. I feel so out of shape. The hike is long and I’m more than willing to stop and have my picture taken with strangers — anything to rest my quivering legs.
The winding stairs take us farther up into the clouds and as promised, the views are spectacular. From the summit I see eight mountain tops clustered together and I can’t stop taking pictures.
The paths are much busier today and the local tourists all want to say hello and their warmth spurs my tired legs along.
When we finally reach the bottom, I head for the nearest restaurant, order a few beers to celebrate surviving the ordeal and ask my guide, “Is there a foot massage parlour in this town?”
Canadian travellers need a visa to enter China. ‘ Air Canada offers daily flights to Beijing and Shanghai. . The best time to visit Langshan is in the spring and summer. / Tour East Holidays offers a number of valued-priced tours to China. Contact one of Tour East’s China experts at www.toureast.com