As some of you may know, the floating mountains in Cameron's Avatar were actually inspired by a series of rock formations in the northwestern region of the Hunan province. Since I am living in Hunan, I have no real excuse for not seeing these wonders.
Well, no excuse needed!
This past weekend, I woke up before sunrise and jumped on a bus towards Zhangjiajie, home to these rock mountains.
Immediately after stepping off the bus, I realized that a hundred thousand Chinese tourists had the same idea as mine on the same day. The buzz from all the tourists and their tour guides, yakking away on their loudspeakers, was more than enough to make one want to turn around and go back home.
Thankfully, a Zhangjiajie native told me of a trail that few tourists frequent. (When I asked a park employee exact directions to said trail, she was incredulous that I would want to go there, since "tourists don't usually go there.") Half an hour after setting out, the buzzing faded away, the people shrank into ants before disappearing completely. Soon enough, my friend and I were alone in the woods, quietly skipping up the neatly arranged stone steps (China doesn't do natural dirt trails), pausing to see the occasional caterpillar forming its cocoon, or to stare back at a monkey looking curiously at us.
Unbelievable sights greeted us at every twist and turn, at every parting of trees and shrubs. These mountains towered over me like old, silent sages from the past, knobby and bent-over, sagging and whispering through the winds their collective wisdom. If only I could decipher their words...