By Duaan Dekker (South Africa)
December 15,2013
“What are men to rocks and mountains?”
– Jane Austen
People talk. Although this is crucial to the cohesion and continuation of society, it presents a problem to those of us who wish to experience wonders first – hand, rather than through the diluted retellings of others. Zhangjiajie has a world – renowned reputation, in fact, the world’s first true 3 – D movie, the blockbuster “Avatar”, was filmed here. As such, I have heard a lot about this place. It was therefore with a little trepidation that I arrived at the entrance to the National Forest Park…surely this would be a beautiful, yet anti – climatic experience…Never have I been more wrong!

The sheer scale of the mountains boggles the mind. Towering rocky buttes reach hundreds of metres into the sky. I went together with a group of friends who entered the Hunan Foreigner Photo Contest and went on a fully sponsored trip. While clicking away at the breathtakingly beautiful scenery, I made a quick review of the photos I had already taken. I was sorely disappointed…because although there are so many beautiful images, they do not come close to comparing to the marvels I am staring at right now.
While walking along the mountaintops and down in the forest below, one can’t help but feel a sense of awe and tranquillity. The enormousness of the park and the plentiful streams inspire a sense of wholeness, where you truly feel at peace, despite the large amount of tourists around. Even though there are many fixed paths everywhere, you do feel in touch with the raw nature at times… especially when you get lost in the view or just walk along the riverbeds.

Zhangjiajie is not only special for its scenic beauty, but also for the stunning array of life.

The park is filled with monkeys, chipmunks, birds and the endangered Giant Salamander. What is also remarkable, is how nature has entered every possible place in Zhangjiajie. Even on the top of the tallest, remotest crag, there are plentiful trees. In every tiny little crevice, a plant grows.
I will always remember this amazing journey, and Zhangjiajie will always remain a treasure in my mind. I have spent a few days trekking through this wilderness…and I left with a sense of peace and purpose…I have gained a lot more wisdom than the time would indicate…I learned that as these timeless and majestic mountains so clearly illustrate, life will always find a way…
“I have found a dream of beauty at which one might look all one's life, and sigh.”
― Isabella L. Bird, Adventures in the Rocky Mountains