ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “waterfalls

AKECHIDAIRA (明智平) & KEGON WATERFALLS (華厳の滝), Nikko (日光), Japan

Apart from the UNESCO World Heritage temples and shrines, Nikko is also well known for its natural scenery.  The bus ride from Nikko to Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) took about 40 minutes.  The journey passed through the town of Nikko along the river.  After about half an hour, the bus began to climb up the Irohazaka Winding Roads (いろは坂) west of Nikko.  As the bus zigzagged up the 48 turns of Irohazaka Winding Roads (いろは坂), we decided to get off one stop before Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) at Akechidaira Ropeway Station to visit the Akechidaira Lookout.  Akechidaira (明智平) can be reached by a two-hour uphill hike from Lake Chuzenji, or a 3-minute gondola ride.  Akechidaira offers an spectacular overview of three iconic scenic features of Nikko: Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖), Mount Nantai (男体山), and Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝).  We stayed at the lookout for about 15 minutes to appreciate the peaceful scenery, then took the ropeway back down and continued the last bit of our bus journey to Lake Chuzenji.  From the bus station, we followed the road signs to the nearby lookout of Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝).  Almost 100m in height, Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝) is the most spectacular waterfall in Nikko, and one of the most famous falls in the entire Japan.

12We hopped off the bus at the ropeway station below Akechidaira (明智平) Plateau.  Unfortunately the weather was not as beautiful as earlier in the morning.

03The Akechidaira Ropeway was first operated in 1933.

05The lookout is about 86m above the ropeway station.

11The ropeway ride took about three minutes.

02During the Autumn, Akechidaira (明智平) is a highly popular spot to see the fall colours.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe lookout offers an almost 360 degrees view of the surrounding scenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) lies right in front of us at the lookout.

08In front of Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) and at the foot of Mount Nantai (男体山), we could see the beautiful Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAUnfortunately the top of Mount Nantai (男体山) was hidden behind the clouds.

10We stayed at the lookout for about 15 minutes.  There wasn’t too many people and we had a brief and peaceful time to admire the scenery.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThen we took the ropeway back down to the station, and hopped on the next bus for Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe most important sight near the bus station of Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖) is undoubtedly Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝).

13With a drop of almost 100m, Kegon Waterfall (華厳滝) is an impressive waterfall.  It serves as the only exit for Lake Chuzenji (中禅寺湖).

 

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DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China

The next day, we woke up before sunrise.  Knowing that the national park would become crowded soon after opening its doors, we opted to arrive at the park’s gate right at its opening time at 7am.  Our guesthouse offered us shuttle service to the park.  When we arrived at the ticket office at 7am, the queuing scene was already quite hectic.  However, we did manage to get our tickets and boarded on one of the shuttle buses to enter the park.  The three main valleys of Jiuzhaigou can be seen as the three branches that form a “Y”.  The bottom branch is known as Shuzheng Valley (樹正溝), starting from the park entrance at the bottom and ends at Nuorilang (諾日朗), where the park branches into two directions, left to Zechawa Valley (則查洼溝) and right to Rize Valley (日則溝).  We knew we wouldn’t have time to see everything in a single day, so we had decided to start the day at Arrow Bamboo Lake (箭竹海) in the middle of Rize Valley, skipping the virgin forests and a few lakes at the deepest end of the park.

The bus ride to our destination Arrow Bamboo Lake took a little over half an hour.  When we reached Arrow Bamboo Lake, time was still early and we could still enjoy the serenity of the misty morning.  The water was perfectly still as if a huge mirror.  No wonder Chinese filmmaker Zhang Yimou (張藝謀) chose this lake for a poetic duel scene in his epic martial art wuxia drama Hero.  It wasn’t raining but the air was wet and chilly from yesterday’s rain.  Some trees had already changed to autumn colours but we knew we were about one week too early to admire the peak autumn foliage of Jiuzhaigou.  Beyond Arrow Bamboo Lake we reached Arrow Bamboo Falls (箭竹海瀑布).  The boardwalk structure allowed us to have a close encounter with the waterfalls.  Onward on our journey we reached Panda Lake (熊貓海), another mirror-like turquoise lake.  Named after old stories about how wild giant pandas loved to come down for a drink, the endangered Chinese icon hadn’t shown up at Panda Lake for many years.  Hidden beyond Panda Lake was another spectacular waterfall, the Panda Lake Falls (熊貓海瀑布).  Then we continued our hike towards one of the park’s centerpieces, the Five Flower Lake (五花海).  With its turquoise water, and vivid autumn colours from the surroundings,  the picturesque Five Flower Lake was truly the highlight of Jiuzhaigou.  The trail led us to circle around the colourful lake, bringing us from one end of the lake to the opposite end where a large viewing platform was erected.  Visitors gathered in large number on the platform to take pictures.

dsc_8602Misty mountains over Alpine evergreen forests near Arrow Bamboo Lake.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe tranquil water of Arrow Bamboo Lake acted like a mirror.

dsc_8653Beyond the mist revealed the snow-capped mountains.

dsc_8628The mist began to lift a little as we walked along the lake shore on designated boardwalk.

dsc_8683Beyond the lake we reached the peaceful Arrow Bamboo Falls.

dsc_8703Jiuzhaigou is famous for its uncounted number of waterfalls.

dsc_8724The Arrow Bamboo Falls was one of the smaller waterfalls that we encountered during the day, but its close proximity to the boardwalk allowed us to have a close encounter, as if we were embraced by the moving water.

dsc_8735Then the boardwalk continued to extend along Rize Valley.

dsc_8827Next came Panda Lake, which according to official descriptions, was once a popular drinking spot for wild giant pandas.

dsc_8837Today, it attracts buses after buses of tourists and zero panda.

dsc_8847Visitors gathered at the Panda Lake Falls.

dsc_8945Further down the path we reached one of the biggest highlights in the park, the Five Flower Lake.

dsc_8987The multi-coloured water of Five Flower Lake plus the reflection of autumn leaves was a painting of sheer beauty.

dsc_9006Around the lake, there were a number of lookout decks for visitors to enjoy the view.

dsc_9057Walking along the lake shore, no matter in which direction, the Five Flower Lake still looked magnificent.

dsc_9098There was a larger viewing platform at the end of Five Flower Lake, where visitors gathered to take photos.  Costumes of native ethnic groups could be rented for photo taking.

dsc_9111The sky got a little brighter as we moved on from Five Flower Lake.

dsc_9165The yellow foliage reflected on the turquoise water was incredible.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFallen tree trunks, some of which could date back to hundreds and thousands of years, could be seen in many Jiuzhaigou lakes.

dsc_9223We were a week or so too early for the peak autumn foliage.  At certain spots we could still witness a sense of fall at the Five Flower Lake.

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Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China

 


DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China

An hour-long morning flight brought us from the ancient Chinese capital Xian to the southern part of Minshan Mountains (岷山), a transitional area where the flat Sichuan Basin meets with the Tibetan Plateau.  Geologically it is right on the vaultline between the Yangtze Plate and the Qinghai-Tibetan Plate, and is therefore prone to earthquakes.  Ecologically it is the habitat for the endangered golden snub-nosed monkeys and giant pandas.  For travelers, it is an famous destination for two of China’s scenic attractions: Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝) and Huanglong (黃龍).  At 8:15am, we landed at the Jiuzhai Huanglong Airport, a highland airport (about 3400m above sea level) opened in 2003 to serve the constantly growing demand of tourism.  We hopped on a minibus outside the airport for Jiuzhaigou.  The bus ride took a little over an hour, traveling through villages, mountain passes, and valleys.  Just as suspected, the minibus dropped everyone off at a village parking lot some 10 minutes of drive away from Pengfeng Village (彭豐村), where the main gate of Jiuzhaigou National Park and our guesthouse were located.  A bunch of taxi drivers came over as if hawks saw their preys.  Despite the rain, we pushed away the drivers and attempted to find our own way to Pengfeng.  We walked into the adjacent village (don’t even know the name) and asked around.  We eventually flagged down a car whose driver (a guesthouse owner) was willing to drive us to Pengfeng for a small fee.  By the time we reached our guesthouse Friendship Hostel in Pengfeng, it was almost noon.

It didn’t took us long to refresh ourselves and began our afternoon adventure into Jiuzhaigou National Park.  It was a 20 minute from our guesthouse to the park entrance.  It was rainy and chilly and hardly visitors were entering the park this late in the day.  We bought the admission ticket excluding the shuttle bus fare as we wanted to do some hiking in the area close to the park entrance, while leaving most of the park highlights for the next day.  It was a slippery hike in a wet afternoon, but we had the trail pretty much all by ourselves.  Our plan was to walk as far as we could and get a taste of the park.  Along the Shuzheng River, in the remaining time of the day before the park closed, we covered the lower half of Shuzheng Valley (樹正溝).  Despite the rain, we had some tranquil moments on the trail until reaching the area between Bonsai Shoals (盆景灘) and Sparking Lake (火花海), where apart from the magnificent turquoise lakes and scenic waterfalls, we also had our first experience of the horrific tourist crowds, which unfortunately, was also what Jiuzhaigou is well known for in recent years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWinding through valleys and passes, the airport bus passed by a kitschy welcome sign of Jiuzhaigou in the middle of nowhere.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASnow was already present at mountain passes on our way to Jiuzhaigou.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt noon, we finally reached Friendship Hostel at Pengfeng Village.  We chose to stay at Pengfeng because of its walkable distance from the park entrance.  Despite simple, the guesthouse had a causal and welcoming atmosphere.

dsc_8348We reached the visitor centre and ticket office of Jiuzhaigou National Park at about 1pm.  It was rainy and chilly and we were a little tired from the early morning flight, but our hearts were excited.

dsc_8349The trail along Shuzheng River was mostly consisted of boardwalk paths.

dsc_8374The hike was wet and sometimes slippery, but we felt like we were the only visitors for the first two hours.

dsc_8389Out of the nine Tibetan villages in Jiuzhaigou, seven are still populated.  Closest to the park entrance, Heye Village (荷葉寨) is also one of the biggest.  As we approached Heye, the rain began to recede.

dsc_8397Heye Village (荷葉寨) was the first village we encountered.  Houses in Heye were still decorated in Tibetan style.

dsc_8408Village houses of Heye Villag (荷葉寨).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom Heye Village, we continued to walk along Shuzheng River until reaching an area with a number of small lakes, including Bonzai Shoals (盆景灘), Reeds Lake (蘆葦海), Double Dragon Lake (雙龍海), Sparkling Lake (火花海), and Sleeping Dragon Lake (臥龍海).  Despite the gloomy weather, we had our first glimpses of Jiuzhaigou’s crystal clear turquoise water.

dsc_8427Water plants were clearly visible in the crystal water.

dsc_8458At Reeds Lake (蘆葦海), the reeds can grow as tall as human height.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADrying reeds on racks near Reeds Lake (蘆葦海).

dsc_8465Winding boardwalk along Reeds Lake (蘆葦海).

dsc_8484A Tibetan roadside shrine with colourful prayer flags.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABird enthusiast taking photos of an eagle with a professional telephoto lens.

dsc_8513With water coming from two opposite ridges, one of the highlights of our day was Sparkling Lake Waterfalls (火花海瀑布).

dsc_8558Looking down the turquoise water of Sleeping Dragon Lake (臥龍海) from the zigzag boardwalk on the higher ridge.

dsc_8541Small waterfalls at both sides of the boardwalk from one lake down to another were virtually everywhere in the Sparkling Lake (火花海) area.

dsc_8591It was almost 7pm when we returned to Pengfeng Village.  We opted for a recently established restaurant of Chongqing cuisine for dinner and retired to our guesthouse after a brief visit to a small grocery shop.  As we hoped for a good rest in a rather cold night, all we could wish was some fine weather in the next morning.

***

Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – QIN EMPEROR’S TERRACOTTA ARMY, near Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – HAN YANG LING MAUSOLEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM, Xian, China
DAY 3 – GREAT MOSQUE (西安大清真寺) AND MUSLIM QUARTER, Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 7 – FAREWELL JIUZHAIGOU & XIAN, China


DAY 8 (1 OF 1)- CATARATAS DO IGUACU, BRAZIL

Today we left Argentina (will be returning in a few weeks) and entered Brazil.  In the morning, we took local transportation to cross the border.  At the bus terminal of Puerto Iguazu, we took a bus to the national border.  Thanks to the locals who pointed us with the right directions, everything went smoothly as we got the exit stamp of Argentina, crossed the river dividing the two countries, and went through the Brazilian passport control.  At the Brazilian side, we took another bus going towards Foz dos Iguacu and got off at Bonborn Hotel as instructed by the staff at Jasy Hotel.  Then we crossed the road and got on another local bus that took us to the Brazilian Iguacu Falls National Park.  We had a few hours to visit the park before our evening flight to Cuiaba.

At the park entrance, we dropped off our backpacks at the locker storage.  Then we hopped on a park shuttle bus at the entry hall covered by a huge canopy.  All the major lookouts and attractions were connected by the shuttle route, allowing us to hop on and off as desired.  We got off at the first lookout of the falls at a trailhead.  It was grey, misty and occasionally rainy the entire day.  The trail took us to various panoramic views of the falls on the Argentine side.  The views were spectacular if not for the weather that made everything looked greyish.  Our hike ended at a grand finale with a close encounter of the Brazilian side of the Devil’s Throat, the same fall section that we visited on the Argentine side on our first day.  The Devil’s Throat is the largest falls among the 275 waterfalls in the area.  At Devil’s Throat, we walked out the metal walkway to the viewing platform right in front of the falls.  It was a fun and soaking experience.  Then we went to the multi-level viewing platform at the side of the falls.  Against the guardrails, tourists were having fun posting in front of the water curtain for photos.  It was such a joyful and wet ending of our Iguazu experience.  After our 2.5-day experience of the falls, we were happy about our visiting sequence: starting at the Argentine side of Devil’s Throat and ending at the Brazilian side.  Visiting Iguazu is truly wonderful because of its variety of experiences.

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Read more posts on Iguazu Falls
Day 6.1 – Puerto Iguazu, Argentina
Day 6.2 – Gargantuan del Diablo, Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Day 6.3 – Jasy Hotel, Puerto Iguazu, Argentina
Day 7.1 – Lower Trail, Parque Nacional Iguazu, Argentina
Day 7.2 – San Martin Island, Parque Nacional Iguazu, Argentina
Day 7.3 – Upper Trail. Parquet Nacional Iguazu, Argentina
Day 8 – Cataracts do Iguacu, Brazil

Next Destination: Pantanal, Brazil
Continuing our journey from post Day 9.1

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 7 (3 of 3) – UPPER TRAIL, PARQUE NACIONAL IGUAZU, ARGENTINA

We concluded our visit to the Argentine Iguazu National Park with a relaxing walk on the Upper Trail which took us to the top of the falls.

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Read more posts on Iguazu Falls
Day 6.1 – Puerto Iguazu, Argentina
Day 6.2 – Gargantuan del Diablo, Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Day 6.3 – Jasy Hotel, Puerto Iguazu, Argentina
Day 7.1 – Lower Trail, Parque Nacional Iguazu, Argentina
Day 7.2 – San Martin Island, Parque Nacional Iguazu, Argentina
Day 7.3 – Upper Trail. Parquet Nacional Iguazu, Argentina
Day 8 – Cataracts do Iguacu, Brazil

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought


DAY 7 (1 of 3) – LOWER TRAIL, PARQUE NACIONAL IGUAZU, ARGENTINA

There were four major trails in the national park: The Devil’s Throat, The Lower Trail, San Martin Island and the Upper Trail. Yesterday, we visited the Devil’s Throat and today we spent a full day on the other three.

Before we left the national park yesterday, we re-validated our ticket at the ticket office, so today we could get in the Argentine Iguazu National Park with 50% discount. We started the day from Lower Trail, a pleasant hike which took us to various lookouts of the falls at lower to mid level. The weather wasn’t as good as we hoped for, but at least it didn’t rain. We walked through some dense forests with breaks of glorious views to the falls. The beauty of the falls is overwhelming, in rain or shine.

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Read more posts on Iguazu Falls
Day 6.1 – Puerto Iguazu, Argentina
Day 6.2 – Gargantuan del Diablo, Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Day 6.3 – Jasy Hotel, Puerto Iguazu, Argentina
Day 7.1 – Lower Trail, Parque Nacional Iguazu, Argentina
Day 7.2 – San Martin Island, Parque Nacional Iguazu, Argentina
Day 7.3 – Upper Trail. Parquet Nacional Iguazu, Argentina
Day 8 – Cataracts do Iguacu, Brazil

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South America 2013 – Our Destinations
Buenos Aires (Argentina), Iguazu Falls (Argentina/Brazil), Pantanal (Brazil), Brasilia (Brazil), Belo Horizonte & Inhotim (Brazil), Ouro Preto (Brazil), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Paraty (Brazil), Sao Paulo (Brazil), Samaipata & Santa Cruz (Bolivia), Sucre (Bolivia), Potosi (Bolivia), Southwest Circuit (Bolivia), Tilcara, Purmamarca, Salta (Argentina), Cafayate (Argentina), San Pedro de Atacama (Chile), Antofagasta & Paranal Observatory (Chile), Chiloe (Chile), Puerto Varas (Chile), Torres del Paine (Chile), Ushuaia (Argentina), El Chalten (Argentina), El Calafate (Argentina), Isla Magdalena (Argentina), Santiago (Chile), Valparaiso (Chile), Afterthought