Back in England my Dad is a keen fisherman, and over the years I’ve regularly visited lakes with him to partake in the sport and to chat absent-mindedly. In my hometown of Lincoln, a large natural pool can be found, which neighbours multiple restaurants, that I often frequent with my Mum when I visit.
Due to these homely affiliations with expanses of water, I’ve always enjoyed visiting others wherever I go. So, after seeing endless reams of stunning photographs online of Jiuzhaigou, my friend and I decided to shoehorn it into our route of China.
Before the trip we stayed slightly outside the national park, in a small and sociable hotel, located in a touristy and tightknit holiday retreat. Surrounded by shops and food, it gave us a chance to soak in a sense of the more Tibetan-style culture in the region, ahead of heading to view the multiple points of natural beauty the next day.
Waking up at 6am, we slouched out of bed, and were bundled into the back of a mini bus which took us to the entrance of Jiuzhagou. There, fortunately, we were able to take a shuttle bus which took us right up to the forest at the top of the landmark, before we strolled down, chatting idly with a charming Croation couple we met along the way, and cooing almost incessantly at the lakes, which were glorious to the point of seeming unreal. The simplest way to describe them is almost too perfect to seem real.
But I’ll endeavour to expand upon that.
What first struck me was the incredible reflections of the evergreen trees and Alaskan looking hills, which were perfectly mirrored by the almost unnervingly still water. Thus it was like observing the sprawling woodland twice over, with the middle point between the true trees and the fraudulent facade glistening in the water almost impossible to distinguish. This further evoked the odd sense of witnessing something other-worldly, something which couldn’t exist.
Despite the droves of us gazing into the lakes, they still appeared untouched by mankind. They had not yet been tarnished, nor had they lost any of their magical untouched innocence, despite being gazed upon by the masses. Rather than at one with nature, I felt I was intruding upon it. The beauty here felt somewhat like how I imagine Eden, and it seemed as though we had no right to impose our humanity upon it, regardless of how lucky I felt to be able to do so.
The clearest water I’d ever seen before was made to look positively dirty, almost more akin to that ruined by an oil spill than the truly pure lagoons dotted throughout the reserve. Blues all blended together harmoniously, pleasuring the eyes with an effortless display of aesthetic wonder, as if the colours themselves were reveling in their own beauty.
With each further lake I saw, none failed to impress me any less than the previous one. Each had its own eccentricities and idiosyncrasies, created through their own inherent beauty or the splendid surroundings which huddled around, hung over, or crept in to the expansive pools.
The time flew as I slowly made my way down the expanse of the park, though I paused constantly and took my time, relishing every single speck of beauty my eyes could take in. Almost enchanted, I crouched in each bay, glancing all around, absorbing the exquisite wonders as if each snapshot was the last bit of wonder I would ever witness.
As the day wore on and the sun began to withdraw from the sky, I watched the lakes change colour along with the sky. Before night drew in, I departed, full of the feeling that I’d discovered a truly magical spot, in a distant corner of the world.
Words by Jacob Jarvis