A bubble in Anhui

In Anhui, leave a city, drive for half an hour, and leave the highway. Then drive half an hour on a long and narrow road into the mountains through tiny villages. You’ll encounter a dozen grey Wulin mini-vans. No restaurants, two tiny supermarkets. Park your car. Then walk two hours alongside creeks and waterfalls, and then, only then you’ll arrive at an artificial lake — one that feels like a bubble to the rest of the world.

First we pass through Wanjia (万家村) and stock up some bottles of water and a full bag of prepackaged bread and snacks for the day.

Today (on China’s National Holiday) we’re walking the Wuyue Ancient Road (吴越古道), somewhere in the triangle of Ningguo (宁国), Jixi (绩溪) and Tonglu (桐庐).

We’re starting from a temple, which is in — true to temples — already a very remote location.

After that it’s a lot of steps, on hard stones and wet cold earth. Not even so many kilometers, but it’s steep and heavy and it takes us over two hours to get there. But it’s a breathtaking trail.

The air feels damp from all the water thrown up from the creek and all its tiny waterfalls.

An old wooden bridge that isn’t fit to be used anymore, and its replacements next to it.

A cave made for people who have to stay the night.

The path is full of life — loads of different insects, and twice I heard a tiny animal spurt away in the bushes before I had a look.

This is the stone that gave the artificial lake its name: 千顷关 (Qianqingguan). It’s also the point where we cross from Anhui into Zhejiang.

The path finally becomes less steep when we’re almost at our destination, and the canopy of trees opens up — changes into meadows.

And then we’re there, the lake. It feels like we’ve entered a bubble in between the hundreds of mountains of Anhui.

For such a heavy trail, it’s actually insane how many people made it. (We also met plenty of people who gave up and headed backward on the trail.)

The husband is telling his wife she’s not jumping high enough for a good photo.

We head back in order to get to our car before sunset. Actually, we easily make it. I don’t think we ever climbed a “上山容易下山难” type of mountain.

Now back in Ningguo, which this morning seemed like a tiny city — but now being back from this hike, it looks a whole lot bigger.