Some 60 k out of Beijing one can visit the Black Dragon Pond, or Heilongtan, in Miyun district. The area is marked by a collection of small ponds of clear water, that are fed by a well somewhere in the mountains above. It is a nice change to the busy city life in Beijing proper, and absolutely suitable for a one day trip. We rented a car and made it a destination on our way to Inner Mongolia. Driving out of town and into the mountains took us about two to three hours, with about a third of the time spend in traffic jams out of Beijing. The street up the scenic area are steadily winding up to higher ground, passing through almost rural areas. Especially interessting on the way were the many bee farmers that sold their locally produced honey to passers-by. We might have had luck, but arriving at the entrance to the area we had no trouble finding a parking space on the comparatively small parking lot, which is located very close to the ticket office. The entrance fee is 60 RMB for adults, but if you manage to produce a valid student ID with a date printed on it, you can get a discount. A nice little extra with regards to the entrance ticket is that they come with a small postcard of the sight you are about to visit, with the postage fee already payed. In the park one walks past smaller and larger ponds of clear mountain water, and after only a few hundred meters you see the first waterfall. It hadn’t rained in some time so the water level was somewhat lower than it could have been, but the steady fall of water was still a very pretty sight to see. One small downer with all the surfaces of water is that the park administration decided to provide inflatable boats and “hamster wheels” for all of them, so it is pretty hard to take a nice picture of the beautiful surrounding nature without them spoiling the view. This is a trip for which you need a good physical condition if you plan to take the full tour. It starts unsuspiciously easy, with even surfaces to walk on and handrails to guide you over the more splippery parts. If you don’t feel your best I advise you to enjoy the sight aroud the entrance of the park and skip the rest, because it soon starts to become more adventurous, with my personal hightlight being a climb of a narrow ladder between to even narrower parts of rock. The closer you come to the top of the mountain, the more exhausting the climb becomes, naturally. In general I would say that this trip is best suited for spring or fall and not in the mids of summer, because the heat does take its toll during the climb. The reward is worth it though. Atop the trails lies a small Chinese temple that overlooks the stunning mountain tops nearby and gives a splendid look over the valley below. All in all the black dragon scenic area is perfect for a day spend in nature, with a well-balanced mix of sightseeing and physical activity.
The first waterfall one encountres on the way up.
An adventurous climb up the mountain through a narrow cleavage beneath two parts of rock.
Crystal clear water.
Dragon Cut Stone. Legend has it that the black dragon was once blocked by a huge rock sent by the flood. The angry dragon cut the rock into half with its paw.
A frog taking a sunbath.
The pagoda at the end of the climb, overlooking the valleys.
Photo documentary from our road trip to Inner Mongolia. The second stop took us to a UNESCO geopark.
Dark clouds, but not one drop of rain.
Contruction workers during lunch break.
The UNESCO geopark covers an area of more then 1700 km2. We had the road to ourselves quite often.
A cow and her calf blocking the road.
Herd of grazing cows.
I can almost pretend that behind that hill the world ends.
A mongol sheperd leads his cow herd.
Trees growing in a quite peculiar way.
A little stream flowing through the valley.
The landscape cut in half by a big puffy white cloud.
Big white puffy clouds camouflaging the grasslands in sun and shadow.
Occasional mongol yurts scattered along the hill side.
Initially we expected to change into electrical vehicles when entering the UNESCO geopark. Turned out the road block was unmanned and so we had to take our car into the geopark area. On the mountain ridge looking back down over the park.
And because its so incredibly beautiful, here another picture in landscape format.
A big drunk lady bug.
Entrance to Arshatu Sub-Park of Hexigten Global Geopark China
Another pretty insect.
When a large granite mass is exposed on the ground surface, the impact of thermal expansion and contraction or compression leads to the development of vertical fissures. In a cold environment, water ingresses fissures in the rock and expands when it turns into ice. This tremendous expansion force can cleave open hard rock.
The mountain ridge in Hexigten Geopark in completely covered with granite pillars that resemble a stone forest.
The Mongolian word “Arshihaty” means a rocky pillar that is straight and steep.
The magnificient grante pillars have various shapes and the well-developed horizontal joints caused the rocks to break into fine layers, making them look like piled books.
And after thousands of years in the making, today a lazy crow picked this ancient spot to rest.
To prevent the ancient rocks from tumbling they have to be stabilized by wooden branches.
Facing the devastating power of ice and snow again and again as the seasons change, the rock is eventually shattered into blocks. The rock fissures expand progressively until the whole fomration becomes flat, broad space.
On a gentle slope it massive pieces of granite.
From afar, this densely layered rocks look like sedimentary rock, but a closer look reveals that it is actually granite. In the Ice Age, more than 100,000 years ago, this granite was covered by extensive glaciers, which caused compression from above. When the glaciers melted, this pressure was released, and the rock expanded slightly. The expansion process damaged the rock structure, leaving small horizontal fissures. Weathering completed the job and finally formations like this one, shaped like the wall of a fort appeared.
View from the top.
Ever changing clouds over the grasslands.
Flower with a view.
Flower on granite.
The Balancing Rock – a rhombic granite fomration cut out from two groups of vertical joints, measuring 3.2m long and 2.5m high. Weathering is more severe in the lower section and when rocks collapse under gravity a top-heavy shape appeared.
This colossal work of art is the result of natural processes over millions of years. In addition to the horizontal fissures, compression caused the development of another set of vertical fissures in the granite.
Ages of relentless weathering along the fissures reduced the rock to blocks. The weaker parts were eroded, and some collapsed.