Thursday, 24 September 2009

Yellow Mountain

So I was looking at my blog through a mirror proxy trying to figure out how to change the settings and password so I could have my mom update for me...when I discovered that I could post directly to my blog by making an e-mail address for it. HOW FREAKIN' COOL IS THAT? I can even attach pictures (which is something I couldn't do before using the proxy). I'll have to mess around with this for a bit and see what I can do with it.

Anyway, I wrote this huge long entry about my weekend in a word document on like...Monday. So I am just going to post it here now....

So this weekend I went to Huangshan (Yellow Mountain). My decision to go wasn't particularly well thought out. I had heard of Yellow Mountain before and when some people I knew were going and invited me, I jumped on the chance to travel with people. If you remember in my blog entries about Harbin I mentioned that it kind of sucked traveling alone.

I was a little nervous about the trip for a few reasons. First of all, I only knew some of the people going on the trip and those that I did know I had only met twice before. They were the folks I met in Century Park before I left for home. Lucy continued to hang out with them over the summer and supported me going on the trip.

My second worry was more physical. I did a little research on Huangshan and found out that it can be a pretty tough hike. One of my students wrote in his summer journal about visiting the mountain and said he couldn't walk the next day. I'm not in the best shape and with my bad ankles, I was really worried about the climb. I didn't want to slow down the group. I was afraid I was going to be the slowest one and the others would be annoyed.

Turns out I didn't have to worry too much about either. First of all, the group I went with was a lot of fun. I was the only America in the group. Selda and Ibrihim (the couple that organized the whole trip) are from Turkey, Roberto and Alicia are from Mexico, Elena is from Russia, Marcus is from Sweden, Fleur is from France, Lars is from Norway and Rafael is from Spain. I had met Selda, Ibrihim, Elena and Fleur before. The others I met for the first time.

Ibrihim and Selda worked out all the details for the trip. The booked a hotel for Friday night at the foot of the mountain and a hostel for Saturday night at the top. They also rented a small bus and hired their driver for the weekend. All I had to do was show up!

Friday night we had kind of a rocky start. The driver was a little late showing up and there was traffic getting out of Shanghai. The ride ended up taking over 6 hours. We had originally planned to arrive at midnight and instead arrived at 3AM. Aiya! The ride was still fun, though. We sang songs and chatted. I tried to sleep a little.

Once we arrived we of course went right to bed. I shared a room with Fleur. The room was fine; a normal Chinese hotel. In the morning we took quick showers, had breakfast at the hotel, left anything we didn't feel like carrying up the mountain in the bus and started our hike.

OH. MY. GOD. The hike WAS intense. Maybe it was just me not being terribly experienced with hiking/mountain climbing…but holy crap. It was just…stairs. Steep stairs. Uneven stairs. Stairs with no railings. STRAIGHT UP. For about 5 hours! And keep in mind I was carrying my overnight bag complete with food and water in it on my back. I never stopped for more than 10 minutes at a time because, like I said, I was worried about being the last one up. I was still slower than most of the group, though, and ended up being the 8th person to arrive at the hostel. Elena and Rafael were taking a lot of pictures and ended up arriving an hour after me.

On the way up I chatted with the porters carrying water, food and other supplies up the mountain. I also chatted with a few groups of Chinese tourists. The tourists coming DOWN the mountain offered lots of support. They said I was "很厉害!"(very strong/talented) or told me how much further the top was. I was glad I bought a collapsible hiking stick (20kuai/about 3 dollars…what a bargain) at the bottom. The view on the way up was pretty beautiful, although the fog obscured what I'm sure what would have been an even more breath taking glimpse at the height we were at.

Once I reached the top I was proud, disgustingly sweaty and exhausted. We checked into the hostel (girls in one room, boys in the other) and took some showers and relaxed. Then we had a super fun picnic dinner. We had heard that food at the top was super expensive (it actually wasn't too bad) so most of us packed a bunch of food. We carried everything outside and laid it out and shared. It was really nice. I munched on fruit and chips and a yummy sandwich made for me by Fleur (who seemed intent on getting me to eat all weekend). After dinner we went on another hike to a place called "Purple Clouds". It ended up being one of the best places we hiked to since the fog had cleared up a bit by then and we got quite a nice view. We delayed a bit getting back though and had to walk down those ridiculous uneven steps in the dark. Scary.

That night we broke out the drinks and games. I had carried a bottle of vodka all the way up to the top to share and it was quickly drunk. Roberto had brought tequila from his work and passed that around. We played a few games of Killer (or as I learned the game, Mafia) and then some "Never Have I Ever" (a favorite of mine). We also chatted and snacked on some more chips and candies.

I know some others stayed up later, but Selda and I at least went to bed around 10pm (If I remember correctly…). Hey…after 4 hours of sleep the night before and then a DAY of hiking…I was pretty tired.

The next morning we got up, packed up our bags and had a group breakfast. Again, picnic style. I had packed a small jar of peanut butter and some bananas. Fleur had brought some bread. So I made a few peanut butter and banana sandwiches. Yum. After that we debated about what to do that day. Walk down the way we came? Too boring. Walk to the nearest cable car and go straight down? Too short. Hike another 7 kilometers to another cable car? Apparently that was the best decision. I was still exhausted and sore and worried again about slowing everybody down. I went with the group decision though.

I did better than I thought I would. The hike on Sunday was about 40% uphill again and about 60% downhill. It was the downhill that saved me. I knew that if I stopped for too long my ankles would probably seize up so I only stopped for lunch when the rest of the group stopped. Believe it or not, Lars and I were the first to arrive at the cable car. Not last…but actually first! I was pretty proud of myself. I made sure to get a medal with my Chinese name carved in it when we reached the summit.

We took the cable car down, which was pretty fast, then took a bus down to the parking lot. There, Selda and Ibrihim's driver met up with us. I was so excited to change into a clean, dry shirt. We stopped super quick at KFC on the way and had two bathroom breaks, but still made excellent time. We got back to Shanghai around 10pm. I was back in my apartment and in bed around 11pm.

Days later and I still feel exhausted. And sore. I kept meaning to go to get a massage but I haven't gotten around to it yet. Maybe this weekend.

I'll put pictures up in a separate post because I'm not 100% sure how to format them through e-mail yet...

Much love!


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