Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Day 6: Tianmen Shan/ Heaven's Gate

15th April 2019 (Monday)

[To have a better view of the wide landscape photos, you are encouraged to download them, zoom in so that the top and bottom of the photos touch the edge of your computer screen and then scroll them left and right to get a 180° perspective of the landscape]

Why did I go to Tianmen Mountain? The first time I saw the picture of Heaven's Gate, I was mesmerised. The walk up the staircase did indeed look like walking to Heaven. It was out of this world. I had to go there, and after waiting for over ten years, I was now here. The visit to the mountain top to walk the glass walkway was an after-thought. It was just an ego-boosting visit since I saw those Youtube videos of people and dogs crawling and screaming in fear. I could do better than them.

I read that the queue to go to Tianmen Shan would be hours long if visitors arrived at the cableway station at 8:00 a.m. or later. It was suggested that visitors should reach there by 7:00 a.m. I reached there before 6:50 a.m. There was no queue. I went to the ticket counter for individual visitors. I had to show my passport as the passport number was required for the ticket. Hostel Geographer receptionist lied to me yesterday when he said all Line A (going by cable car, return by bus) tickets had been sold. I paid ¥258 and did not have a problem getting the ticket. The ticket clerk explained that the charge for the upper escalator was already included in the ticket, but not for the lower escalator. I got my park ticket by 6:52 a.m.

I was able to enter the cable car departure area immediately if I had wanted. The ticket inspector was already stationed there, but there were no visitors yet. After loitering around for a while, I saw a small group of people at the entrance. I followed them and entered at 7:04 a.m. There were only four of us in the cable car and we took off at 7:14 a.m., reaching the upper cable car station at 7:40 a.m.

The weather looked good early this morning, and as we exited the upper station, a light drizzle started.

There were two popular trails to choose, the East Line or the West Line. From what I read, most visitors took the West Line to begin their trek. The trail route would be West Line --> Cherry Village --> Tianmen Temple (skip it) --> East Line  --> Upper Escalator. Before my trip to Hunan, I was worried about finding my way to the escalator upper station as there was zero information on the Web and Youtube. There was in fact nothing to worry as the trail would lead to the escalator. It was impossible to take the wrong turn and missed it as there was no wrong turn to take. One would not get lost on Tianmen Mountain. The whole round trek took less than 2 ½ hours slow walk.

It was a wet and dreary day. The upper escalator brought visitors to the rear of Heaven's Gate. It was only 10:44 a.m. when I stepped foot at Heaven's Gate. I spent almost an hour there. It was still raining and there was no motivation to go down to the base/ platform below and finding oneself without shelter under the rain.

When it was time to go, I was undecided whether to walk down the staircase or to take the lower escalator. I had trained to stay fit and to strengthen my knees before my Zhangjiajie trip.  I was sure I was fit enough to walk down but was unsure whether I would hurt my knees in the process. In the end, I decided not to take any chance and went to buy the escalator ticket. It was about 11:41 a.m. when I left and 10 minutes later, I was at the base of the staircase. I still had a full afternoon and had no other plans. I stayed about 1 ½ hour there before leaving Tianmen Mountain at about 1:04 p.m.

The bus ride back to Tianmen Station was along extremely winding road. Half an hour earlier, I had taken a travel sickness pill and this greatly helped as I did not get sick. The mountain bus stopped at a bus transit station and all passengers had to disembarked and queued to transfer to another bus. The second bus took us back to Tianmen Cableway Station.