SHOT # 13 Run Report, June 2011
Zhang Jia Jie
(Hares: Opera, Yoong Nim Chee, Playboy Choo, Chai Kin Sang)
Zhangjiajie. The very name conjures a fabled land of grandeur and mysticism and, for movie buffs, the Avatar-land of the eponymous blockbuster film that captured the imagination of audiences the world over. Its towering columns of quartzite sandstone, distinctive mesas that bore the effects of eons of nature’s erosive handiwork, have been the hallmark of Chinese brush paintings since ancient time. The landscapes were of such magnificence, that the 2 National Parks in this area of Hunan Province, China – Wulingyuen and Zhangjiajie - were accorded UNESCO’s World Heritage Park status, as well as UNESCO Global Geopark status. For the fortunate ones who chose and/or managed to join this SHOT, the landscape almost seem like an apparition right out of the painter’s canvas, so surreal is the vista. The ironical cliché of ‘life imitating art’, of actual seeming virtual, physical seeming otherworldly, literal seeming illusory...
Getting to this fantasy-land does entail quite a bit of travelling, the most of any SHOT thus far, for the closest Air Asia flights takes us only to Guangzhou, 800km yet from the destination. Those who could ill-afford the time and hassle of overland travels had the option of a quick 1-hr hop-over, whereas the majority picked the slightly cheaper but picturesque overland route, that begins directly from the Guangzhou airport, by a combination of hi-speed trains cum chartered buses, soaking in the Chinese countryside whilst getting an almost first-class comfort with well-stocked bars on board. We were joined by some hash brethren from Guangzhou and a sizeable number from Shanghai, making it a 140+ strong turn-out.
The Friday night Registration Party at the Min Nan International Hotel in the city of Zhangjiajie sorely missed the Shanghainese hashers, whose evening flights were delayed by dense fog that envelopes the Shanghai region. For the rest who turned up, the planned 2-hr party went on till late into the night, with ample food and an endless free-flow of beers. Food and beverages in this part of China could be had for only a fraction of what it usually cost us, so the registration fees went quite a long way to more than satiate us.
As the buses chartered for the afternoon run were paid for the day, the organizers made good use of them to take the participants on a morning must-see tour to the famous Mount Heaven’s Gate, which involved a 7.2km cable-car ride up to the summit, thence a 2km walk along a suspended foot path built on the sheer wall of the mountain, and then a cable-car descent to a mid-station where transport then bussed us up to the foot of the Heaven’s Gate, a gigantic cavernous through-cave whereupon it takes 999 steps to ascent to the top. It was unfortunate that the incessant rain and consequent misty surrounds rendered visibility poor, marring the fabulous view that could be had. A few of our avid photographers, in fact, made return trips there in subsequent days when the weather turned better for better takes.
The main run was set on the fringe, and under the shadow of, the Wulingyuen National Park, and traversers 9km of the necessary spectrum of hills, jungles, orchards, streams, and a good home stretch of ample running, made challenging by the morning rains and afternoon showers. Many of us have to resort to last-minute procurement of rain-proof ponchos to keep us from getting wet and the accompanying stinging chill. The run finishes at a restaurant just short of where we started the run, and we were treated to – for some - hot showers and ice-cold beers (a rare commodity, as locals drink their beers ‘as is’). A scrumptious 10-course meal was served, and the Grandmasters of the various representative hashes were given an opportunity to showcase their ‘whipping’ prowess and subject whoever the miscreants to Down Downs, an inclusive affair well-received especially by those uninitiated to the SHOT tradition. Upon the completion of the hash evening’s festivities, the transports fetched us to our new base at the Gen Li Hotel in Wulingyuen.
At the appointed hour on Sunday morning, uniformed in similar purpose-made t-shirts, we congregated by the foyer, and were led off in a 1km march to the main entrance of the Wulingyuen National Park, which afforded a great photo opportunity with the stunning backdrop. Group and individual photos taken, we began our hangover run through some scenic parts of the city, with a few stops for the amber nectar.
The run ended at a charming and rustic bamboo-clad restaurant a short walk from our hotel. We partook of a delectable spread of local cuisine, including some famous Hunanese spicy dishes, and an entertaining circle was again enacted, ending with the hash anthem to culminate the SHOT weekend.
The main tour party set off in 2 buses to a water rafting trip to begin the official 5-day Side Tour, while the other sub-groups embarked on their own travels. We spent some days exploring and trekking the local hills, including Avatar’s Hallelujah Mountain, then went west to the gorgeous ancient riverside bastion town of Feng Huang or Phoenix City, visited remnants and rebuilt parts of the Southern Great Wall, finally completing our tour in Changsha, the capital city of Hunan Province, and making our separate journeys back to Guangzhou for the return flight home.
Many thanks to the Hares for setting such a marvelous trip and to our main sponsor AIR ASIA for making the SHOT affordable for all.