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Majestic landscape provides a stairway to heaven

Updated: 2024-07-11 06:25 ( China Daily )
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Biju Dwarakanath [Photo provided to China Daily]

As the tour bus zigzagged its way up the hill, the valley below was shrouded in mist.

It was around 10 am, but the light rain had dabbed just the right coat of fog to the windows, and the haze made the world appear supremely beautiful, just like the landscape we were about to marvel at.

We were a group of about 30 travelers headed to the Wulong karst region, part of the UNESCO World Heritage Property of South China Karst, which comprises seven karst clusters.

The karst terrain of Wulong is situated about three and a half hours away from Chongqing, a bustling metropolis famed for its spicy hotpot located at the confluence of the Jialing and Yangtze rivers in southwestern China.

Visitors throng to Wulong to see its giant sinkholes, natural bridges and caves; it has a prehistoric charm and a pristine beauty all its own.

We had come to experience some of its famed attractions, including tiankeng, or the three natural bridges, and the Longshuixia gap, a deep gorge surrounded by sheer cliff, natural waterfalls and stalactite formations.

Our uneventful trip started at 7:30 am sharp from the downtown area of Chongqing, with a break for a sumptuous, yet simple Chinese-style brunch at 10:30 am and arrival at the ticket counters by 11:30 am. A few meters past the entrance is an oversized modern glass ledge that extends a good few meters from the rocky outcrop to offer a spectacular first view.

Standing on the transparent structure and considering with quickening breath a drop of several hundred meters is certainly not for the fainthearted, I thought, as I started taking pictures and recording videos. Soon, we embarked on a 45-minute walk along well-cut steps, hugging the cliff face at times, to an elevator for a bottom-up view of the unique bridges as well as to a remarkably well-preserved small outpost that served as a way station and post office for travelers several hundred years ago.

In fact, the local authorities have gone the extra mile to ensure that the whole exercise is a hassle-free one for tourists, especially the elderly.

The three natural bridges — Tianlong, Qinglong and Heilong — have, we were told, formed stunning backdrops to scenes from Michael Bay's Transformers: Age of Extinction and Zhang Yimou's Curse of the Golden Flower.

Standing in awe a little distance away from each of the three bridges and clicking quite a few pictures in the rain, I made a mental note to watch these movies once again to admire their grandeur on celluloid. Absorbing the sights and sounds of the bridges was an unforgettable experience and the intermittent drizzle through the day made it even more memorable; their breathtaking scope is sure to blow your mind, too.

Two hours later, some of us were hopping on to a minibus to Longshuixia gap, a subterranean world that gradually slopes down to depths of over 250 meters, with steps winding all the way down the craggy limestone gorge to the exit about 2 kilometers away, leaving me wonder-struck at its untamed charm and tranquillity.

This is as marvelous as the three natural bridges and a must-see if you plan on visiting Wulong. I was reluctant to leave, I must confess.

Our return journey began at 3:45 pm and by the time we reached the city at 6:45 pm, I was already missing the stillness and majesty of the ancient karst.

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