In the morning Sam says that we’ll be finished with the items on the tour by noon, and proposes, for a modest extra fee, to take me to some additional, really spectacular sights.
Um, excuse me? The tour is supposed to be two full days. What do you mean there’s only a half day today? We’re supposed to see a lake, and a forest. All day.
Well, with Louis having to leave early, he kind of rushed the program yesterday, and we’ve already done the forest. That was the bit at the end yesterday. We’ll go to the lake this morning, but it’s a boat tour with a set itinerary and there’s not much else to do there.
Why don’t we just go back to the forest? The sign said the one trail was 5.6 km - I only saw a tiny bit!
Yes, but there’s a ticket to get in, and we’ve already done that. There’s a great place for you to see that’s not on this tour. It doesn’t cost much - I just need to pay the driver and the entrance fee. It isn’t much.
And it’s not really so much in western terms. Sam is such a nice guy and he’s so charming and informative that fine, I’ll pay the supplement. But I know I’m getting ripped off, and that puts an unpleasant aftertaste to everything.
Sigh. On to the lake.
Walking up to the lake, which is in another park with an entrance fee and paved paths, we pass by a cage of monkeys. There are signs saying beware of monkeys, but they don’t come out much in the cold season, so there’s a cage full of them to make sure you get your regulation monkey sighting. It’s everything I hate about zoos, too. Three macaques are housed in a concrete box with a wire front and roof, with one tree trunk for decoration. There’s not enough space. There’s nothing for them to do. Just bare prison walls.
That’s all for the lake. Time to pick up the luggage and head for the city about 40 minutes away, where we have lunch. From here we take the longest cable car in the world (8 km) up to a different bit of the Zhangjiajie mountain area, for a short walk around and then a look at a natural keyhole formation between two peaks. Sam is immensely proud of this keyhole. Just last year a formation of jets flew through it. And then some American in a wingsuit flew through it. And a famous Chinese singer went up to the site and discovered religion. She’s now China’s most famous Buddhist. Now they are building an incredible elevator that will whisk tourists up there in just minutes, avoiding the 990 steps now necessary.