Discover the breathtaking Jiuzhaigou National Park
This is the story of the national park of Jiuzhaigou – the valley of the nine villages. Many years ago, in a time of myth and legend, mystery and magic, when gods and demons still roamed this earth and played in the skies above, a beautiful goddess paused near a forgotten valley. She had with her a mirror, precious as her one means of reflecting her ethereal beauty. In a moment of distraction, she fumbled and allowed her precious looking glass to fall from her graceful, godly fingers. It tumbled down towards the earth, through the clouds and mountains until it hit the ground, shattering into pieces in the slumbering valley of Jiuzhaigou. The broken shards transformed on contact with the mortal realm, giving birth to the many impossibly clear and blue lakes that the region is famous for today. This is the legend. And standing in this place of heightened nature, it is easy to understand why it has a spiritual connection.
It is a place of indescribable natural beauty, fresh and clear and enchanted. Huge mountains rise to the skies, their summits decorated with snow like icing sugar, their purple slopes tumbling down, reflected in the crystalline stillness of the shattered mirrors below them. Trees line the slopes, green and verdant, their grey-brown branches submitting to the gentle call of the breeze. Rock formations, forbidding and magnificent, tower on the cliffs wreathed in suspended cotton wool clouds, shifting with the omnipotence of smoke. Butterflies of every colour and every shape flutter past as you walk, their effortless flight displaying the intense colours that pattern their backs. The heart breaking throngs of chattering tourists mean you are unlikely to see any other animal life here, although it is reported that giant pandas do still live here amongst the trees. Very sensibly, they stay far away from the pulsating, noisy crowds. However, if you are prepared to walk a little it is possible to get away from the masses. You don’t have to go far to find the quieter boardwalks that run from top to bottom of the valley, traversing the stunning natural landscape. You can still find your portion of peace just minutes from the madness.
The most inspiring of all the wonders this national park has to offer is, without a doubt, the water. So clear it is more transparent than glass and so clean it reflects with more beauty than a mirror. It is still and undisturbed and serene as it slumbers in the huge lakes. It is vivid and blue and full of life, barely contained by its boundaries. And it is powerful – strength itself rushing in foaming torrents down sheer cliff faces and muddy banks alike, transforming the landscape with the roar of centuries. And the colour, the pure jewel blue which fills every molecule is too vivid to be processed by a rational mind. It cant be real, it shouldn’t be real. It is what postcards and picture books are made of. It is a shade only seen in dreams, hardly to be believed in nature.
In the five colour pool there are powerful fluctuations in shade, each shimmering colour sparkling in the sunlight with its own luminescence. In the many waterfalls the water is seething and powerful, a display of the not-to-be-forgotten might of nature. At “Dragon Falls” it flows down either side of the walkway, deep, tumbling and translucent right down to the yellow sandy lake bed. Circular reflections and cyclical ripples form as the still surface of the upper lake drops over the bank, pulled irresistibly downwards in a clear cascade of icy grandeur. It defies every sense not to immerse yourself in it, not to plunge in and take this wondrous place into your soul. Thrusting a hand through the glassy surface as it rushes down the bank is irresistible, an urge indulged by almost all who pass. The water sprays out in response to the touch of your fingers, distorting from its inevitable course for an instant. The icy crystalline coldness burns your skin even as your childish heart delights in the rainbow of colours playing across the shimmering, rushing surface.
It is beauty beyond all reason, grandeur beyond humanity and beyond explanation. It is a fairyland of impossible landscapes, carved of jewels and filled with precious, breath taking vistas. The sun shines down on the strength, power and intensity of beauty only found within nature. The colours change as the clouds shift and the lake surfaces reflect the world above and create a glassy barrier from the submerged world below the surface. No matter how deep, you can always see the bottom. Tree trunks criss-cross the lakebeds. Not even just trunks, but whole trees lie slumbering, surrounded by mounds of green lichen and populated by tiny darting fish and peacefully floating ducks. The trees create an intersection, another layer of depth within this already stunning scene.
I spend all day repeating the same few words. “It’s just SO beautiful.” And it is. It goes beyond words and cannot adequately be summed up. It makes your heart beat faster and your eyes widen. It makes your chattering mind slow and revel in the majesty of nature surrounding you. How privileged I am to witness the overwhelming power of such a place, the incredible grandeur, the utter genius of nature. As I said – it’s just so beautiful.
Words copyright of Bonnie Radcliffe.
Photos copyright of Bonnie Radcliffe and Liam McCarthy.