My second day at Jiuzhaigao I decided to make the trek to neighboring Huang Long, another National Park in the area. I was too late to book a seat on the public shuttle, so I had to hire a car for the day. Fortune smiled on me and when I came down to depart, another traveler had joined me. So I spent the day with the lovely Anithra from Singapore. We chattered pleasantly on the 2+ hour drive and I learned all about Singapore and Japan and Anithra’s passion for flowers. The drive itself was spectacular as we drove over a 14,000 foot pass, past grazing yaks, surrounded by snow-capped peaks at every turn. The guidebooks describe Huang Long as a single, 3 hour walk down a beautiful valley. An apt description. Of course, we were spared the uphill climb as we opted for the convenient cable car. From the top we walked along the manicured, planked walkway with the occasional climb up steps. I’m glad they were only occasional, because we really felt the extreme altitude in both lungs and legs. Finally my weather karma failed and we had and overcast day. But the rain held off and the clouds did nothing to take away from the beauty of the colored pools, bubbling shoals and small cataracts, and terraced travertine. A bigger problem was the time of year. The snow had not started melting in earnest so there was little water flowing down the valley. Many of the signature pools and falls were dry. Moreover, there were Rhododendrons everywhere and look to be a few weeks away from blooming. Should I return here with a tour group someday, I will try to come when there is more water flow and, if possible, when the Rhodies are blooming. But it was still pretty wonderful.
The Five Color Pool at the top was the clear highlight. Different hues of blue and green could be found in the various terraces. We found a lovely overlook bench and enjoyed the picnic lunches we had brought. After that the journey down was much like Jiuzhaigao. Easy walking on planked walkways, all downhill, passing small streams, a few lakes, and many dry features. But the conversation never lagged. Anithra proved to be intelligent, funny, and interesting and we spent a delightful day together.