Thursday, April 28, 2011

Stairway to Heaven

That's sure what it felt like when I was hiking Mt. Emei. I arrived there at noon yesterday, not really having any clue about anything on the mountain. I was really mad at myself for that, throwing myself at the mercy of my misinformation. It's always good to be prepared. Especially, it seemed, for Emei Shan. The first part of the park seemed to be horribly disorganized; there were no signs telling you where to go, in a park that receives hundreds of thousands of visitors per year. The maps that you can buy at the bottom were totally mickey mouse, I got somewhat lost twice because of the wrong information on them, and I'm even pretty damn good at direction finding. That and the oppressive heat and humidity made for a grueling afternoon. I think I dropped twenty pounds of water weight alone.

Halfway up, things did improve. Thankfully the hoards of Chinese tourists stick to one specific route down (after they bus up to the stop of the mountain), which wasn't the route I was taking up. The only part I had to deal with lots of people was at the stone Buddhist carvings (which were amazing, literally life size people skillfully carved out of a rock face) and the monkey valley. Speaking of those critters, they generally left me alone. Mostly because I had my bamboo walking stick raised in strike position. They recognized. I did see quite a few of them climb on top of and swipe at Chinese tourists who were stupid enough to feed them. I tried explaining to a couple what happens when we feed bears in Canada, and how it usually concludes with the crack of a ranger's rifle.

I arrived the first day to a Buddhist temple at a roughly midway point, where I crashed for the night. It's pretty cool, all the temples on the mountain have rudimentary dorm rooms for tourists, and even have hot showers! The rooms themselves are a little run down (ours had a couple really big spiders in it, the same kind that I had run in front of my face in Nepal, if you recall that story) but do the trick. This temple was in a really secluded spot with the only thing to be heard for miles was the singing rain forest birds. The only downer was the prayer ritual that starts and 5am, which includes bell ringing and drum banging.

The second day's hike was a total bear. I pounded out roughly sixteen hundred vertical meters, not including the times I had to descend and the subsequent ascension. One leg of stairs I counted three hundred and twenty six. I'm tired today. I pounded out thirty six kilometers of that shit in an impressive six hours and forty five minutes. I'd planned to take the cable car right to the top of the mountain to see the temple up there, but the combination of the cost, the haze obstructed view and the multitude of temples I've seen on this trip, I passed. Instead I opted to laugh at the Chinese maintenance worker walking precariously on the edge of a huge cliff to pick up garbage left there by the monkeys, who he threw some rocks at in retaliation. Then I caught a bus back to Chengdu. End of the adventure.

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