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By this Author: worldwideG

Climbing Emeishan

How high?!

sunny 26 °C

Having climbed Huashan in Xian, I was keen to visit Emeishan in Sichuan Province. It is a Buddhist holy mountain and was inscribed in the World Natural and Cultural Heritage List in 1996. I took the evening public bus from Chengdu to the bottom of the mountain and stayed at a pleasnat hostel overnight to be ready for an early start. After a decent nights sleep I rose at 8.00 a.m to take breakfast and prepare for the trek ahead. I took a bus to one of the starting points and walked to the first of the many temples on this holy mountain. There are 30 temples on the mountain and I saw about half of them on my ascent. I was pleased to see many Chinese people engaged in offering incensce and candles in the grounds of the temple. In the centre of the Wannian Temple is a huge bronze statue of Samantabhadra mounted on a white elephant weighing 62-tonnes. Rubbing the backside of the elephant is considered to bring luck and it has been well worn over the years! After a brief walk around the beautiful grounds I set-off along the trail on the east side of the mountain taking in the forested hill-sides. I had been told that the route would take between 8 and 12 hrs to walk so I walked at a steady pace with few breaks until lunch-time. I sat down to a very nice meal prepared by a girl and her father who appeared to live in the shack. After washing down the noodles with a cup of green tea I was back on the trail feeling fresh and ready to tackle the never-ending steps.
The scenery was very pleasant as the unique geographical and climatic conditions endow the mountain with lush vegetation. Mt.Emei is known as "Kingdom of Plants", "Geological Museum", "Animal Paradise" and "Buddhist Celestial Mountain". It is easy to see why it is considered holy and thankfully under state protection such is the beauty of the area. My walk was pretty uneventful and I passed few people on route. I stopped at the occassional temple and food shack but was conscious of the time and my progress. My aim was to reach the Golden Summit in time to see the sunset so I pushed on and on up the steep stone steps. Some workmen were repairing the path and were carrying down ridiculously heavy loads on their backs. Some carried slabs of stone weighing in excess of 40kgs by my estimation! Along with a monkey reserve on the west of the mountain there are wild monkeys on Emeishan. I passed some on one section of the path and they were pretty cool. I didn't need to use my stick that I had been advised to buy!
I met a sound Polish guy part way up the route who had walked a different path from me but we both converged on the eastern path. We had a good chat along the way and motivated each other as the steps got steeper and we got higher and higher. It was really tiring from 2500m and about 100m from the summit I started to feel the effects of altitude sickness, experiencing short breaths and a headache. I found the energy from somewhere and made it the Golden summitt where I was greeted by a massive golden statue of buddha on elephants. The sun had not yet gone down and I had made it to the top as I had planned to in 10 hrs, arriving just before sunset. Unfortunately, there was so much cloud cover that I wasn't rewarded with a beautiful sunset, but being up there amongst the clouds was cool enough. After taking a load of photographs at the summit I found a decent room in a guesthouse and got an early night. The next morning I took the mono-rail across to Wanfu summit which is the highest peak on the mountain at 3099m. That was the highest I've been above sea level and I was surrounded by cloud cover all morning. I made a slow descent to the cable-car station and took the car part-way down the mountain to the bus station. It took about 2 hrs to descend the mountain with an astounding number of hairpin turns along the way. I left exhausted but with a feeling of accomplishment after completing the 32km winding walk up 3000m in 10 hrs. Although, Edgey would probably say he could do it in 9 hrs without sweating or being sick! In his only e-mail in almost 6 months he told me he could have climbed Huashan in 5 hrs no problem. I'd like to see that Edge!

Posted by worldwideG 23:45 Archived in China Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Climbing Huashan

This is a must-do if you're in Xian!

sunny 28 °C

Due to the train to Chengdu being fully booked on my preferred date I had an extra couple of days in Xian. That turned out for the best because otherwise I would have missed one of the highlights of China. I'd been told that Huashan was a beautiful mountain and that climbing it at night was the best way to do it so that you get to see sunrise over the mountains. With a brand new headtorch I caught a bus to Huashan and was fortunate enough to find myself sitting in the middle (somewhat squashed!) of a group of Chinese students who spoke a little English. They asked me to climb the mountain with them and I was more than happy to join them. We arrived at the base around 10 p.m. and had a half hour safety talk (in Chinese!) in a restaurant before setting off to the entrance. The talk was extremely useful and without that I would not have made it back alive! So anyway, we paid the entrance fee and set off in the warm and dark night to tackle the 2160m summit before sunrise at 6.30 a.m. Different people told me different times that it would take to climb so I'd given myself plenty of time in case it took me the 8 hrs I'd been told by a young Chinese guy back at the hostel who had done it a couple of days before. The first 30 mins was pretty easy going but the steps got very steep, very quickly after that and we would be stopping to catch our breaths every 15 mins or so. The steps winded and snaked their way up the edge and into the mountain with no sight of the top or even where the next flight of steps would lead us. The steps themselves became unbelievably narrow in places, normally the most dangerous as luck would have it, and I had to place part of my foot sideways on the narrowest ones and hold on to the metal rails. What surprised me the most was the casual nature of some of the Chinese who were scurrying up the steps with no concern for anyone alongside them. Some parts where the steps were almost vertical became congested with bodies trying to scramble up them and we came to a standstill on a number of occasions.
This did at least allow us to catch our breaths from time to time and the girls in the group were especially grateful for this. We had no idea how much progress we were making in the dark so it was hard to judge what pace we should go at. It was also hard to judge how precarious the mountain was in places, although being unable to see the sheer drops either side of the steps was no bad thing! As the morning came it became easier to see a little more of our surroundings but it wasn't until dawn that the splendour of the landscape was revealed. We crossed over from the North peak onto the East peak by a steep, narrow causeway with sheer drops on either side at around 4.30 a.m and were at the summit an hour later in plenty of time to see the sunrise. The peak was full of people awaiting the sunrise but we found the best spot at the very front, and the edge, of the mountain. Once we stopped walking I began to feel the cold up there, being dressed in shorts and a light jacket, but when the sun came up I soon warmed up again. It was unbelievably beautiful as the sunlight unveiled the mountains all around us and people cheered when the sun was fully risen.
Despite feeling mentally tired and physically exhausted I decided to walk around the other peaks with 2 of my new Chinese friends who also wanted to check out the other peaks. We spent 5 hrs trekking across the South, West, and Middle peaks before heading back to the North peak to catch the cable-car down the mountain. I was really glad to make the effort of walking around the other peaks because they all offered amazing views and we had a lot of laughs taking photos. Huashan forms the shape of a lotus flower with the 4 larger peaks surrounding the lower middle peak and it is an awesome sight to behold. I will never forget the experience and sense of achievement from climbing that mountain in the dark and in just 6 hrs from the bottom to the top.

Posted by worldwideG 21:59 Archived in China Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The gang go to Xian

Sightseeing, clubbing & table tennis!

sunny 28 °C

The overnight train journey to Xian from Beijing on 13th August was the most comfortable I've had and I relaxed on my soft bunk watching "House of Flying Daggers" on the flat screen t.v. Charlotte had arranged a free pick-up from the train station by the hostel so we waited with their rep for the bus. Charlotte was almost pick-pocketed but adge caught the little girl in the act and she ran off empty handed. Our ride eventually turned up and we had a short ride through the morning traffic. We dropped off our bags in the dark, dingy, damp and damn dreadful dorm room in the basement and set off for a walk along the 10m high city wall back to the train station to purchase our onward journey tickets. We were all going our seperate ways from this point, although me and adge both went to Chengdu but on different days and jon and charlotte were both going to Hong Kong to fly back to blighty. After we endured the craziness and queue jumping of some of the Chinese we got our tickets and had a leisurely walk back to the hostel. Here we booked our places for the Terracotta Warriers tour the following day and played table tennis for a couple of hours. As usual adge was unbeaten but both jon and myself produced some shots of magnificance!
The following morning, after an awful nights sleep, we rose early to join the tour and were greeted by a glorious sunny day. On the bus we were welcomed by possibly the most annoying tour guide in the world who talked constantly and loudly for about an hour until we arrived at the factory where the souvenirs are produced. We had a short and interesting tour before getting back on the bus. Upon arrival at the Terracotta Warriers we watched a short film before checking out the pits holding the warriers. To say they are impressive is an understatment, especially considering the army was built over a 40 year period and after the death of the Emporer Qin Shi. All warriers were individually crafted and no two look the same. So much of the tomb remains to be uncovered and it could take scientists decades to completely reveal its contents. I would like to return when its full glory is revealed, minus the tour guide!
That night we went out for Beijing duck which was good but no better than what we have back home. Then we went to a club on the high street with a couple of French girls, got drunk on vodka,and danced with some really friendly Chinese revellers! I finally broke my duck (so to speak) and woke feeling a bit rough after the evenings festivities!

Posted by worldwideG 21:45 Archived in China Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

The Great Wall of China

Trekking, boozing & zip-line fun!

all seasons in one day 30 °C

On the 10th Aug adge, the crazy Dutch guy, and myself took a bus to Jinshangling where part of the great wall runs through on its winding way across 6352km (3948 miles) of China.The bus ride was an event in itself but won't really mean anything to anyone who wasn't there!So we eventually arrived at Jingshangling in a light rain and fog which we were totally unprepared for!After buying a raincoat and some biscuits for sustenance we set off in the rain to walk a 10km stretch of the longest man-made structure in the world.The rain and fog created an eerie atmosphere to the wall as we walked along imagining what the landscape around us was like.Visibility was down to around 20m for an hour or so and then the fog lifted to reveal a lush and hilly landscape which the wall seemingly traversed with ease.It is an unbelievable engineering achievement to admire as it winds its way across the hills into the distance.However, we all agreed that we would not have wanted to be stationed here as a soldier!
The majority of our walk was uphill in the first half which was pretty hard going as we walked at a pretty good pace with few breaks.We were glad not to have been out boozing the night before this walk!We pressed on and were soon accompanied by two chinese women who invited themselves to join us and occasionally point out things of interest.We were under no illusions that they would want to sell us something but they were nice enough and we didn't think they would understand us if we had asked them to leave us alone so we tolerated their company for a few kilometres.We stopped for lunch at one of the highest watchtowers on the section and the sun came out from behind the clouds.The rest of the walk was to be downhill mainly which was welcome news given that it was now around 30C and pretty humid.Sure enough, after another 30 mins walking the women said they would go no further with us and asked us to buy some souvenirs from them.I ended up with a nice book about the wall and adge bought some postcards which made them happy anyway!On we walked admiring the beautiful scenery and after an hour we reached our destination of Simatao.The 10km had taken us 3 hrs to walk in total and we thought that deserved a beer.As luck would have it there was a really cool Chinese guy selling "Ice cold beer...coke...water...ice cream!"We dutifully bought 3 ice cold beers and sat back to relax in the sun whilst we waited for our driver (we somehow managed to acquire?) to pick us up in a couple of hrs time.Our mates jo, john, and charlotte we also walking the same section that day and we wondered if they were still walking as we drank our beers.Our new friend selling beer kept us amused as he repeated his now infamous saying to all that passed.The guy even brought out a loudspeaker which he lent me for a while!We were a little surprised when jon walked up to us a little while later and gave us his tale of walking the same section.He had enjoyed it and was soon followed by jo and later charlotte.We all agreed it had been a challenge (little was I to know that this would be a breeze compared to my later trekking exploits!) and had really enjoyed the walk through the lush scenery.We had been looking forward to doing the 200m zip-line across the lake to the bottom and I was first to go.A Japanese girl wanted a companion on the zip-line so that she would go faster so I was volunteered to accompany her.It was a lot of fun and I got jon to videotape it on my camera (great job mate!) for posterity.

Posted by worldwideG 22:44 Archived in China Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Sightseeing in Beijing

I like to ride my bicycle . . .

sunny 29 °C

After a very pleasant day and a half train ride from U-B, taking in part of the Gobi desert, I arrived in Beijing full of expectation and enthusiasm for sightseeing.This proved to be just as well because Beijing has a lot of sightseeing on offer!I took a taxi (ooh the luxury and indulgence!) to the hostel I was reliably informed was very good in the hutongs and checked into the same dorm my friend was staying in.When they returned from their sightseeing later that afternoon we took a walk down the street and enjoyed a superb and inexpensive meal sitting in the sundrenched alley.The following day I hired a traditional and almost fully working bike (well the back brake worked!) and braved the chaotic Beijing traffic as we cycled around Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City and into central Beijing.I was hugely impressed by the beauty of Beijing and taking a bike around the city was definately the way to see it.We stopped at a marketplace to have a look around and it was here I tried roasted scorpion for the first time.It was pleasant enough, no real taste but a crunchy texture to it anyway which was pretty good after a week of living off mutton and noodles.
When we returned to our hostel I was greeted by a call of "Alright gayboy" or something of a suitably derogatory nature by my mate adge who had just arrived on a later train from U-B.It was beer o'clock so we sat in the courtyard enjoying probably the cheapest beer I've ever drunk (7 pence a bottle!) and he filled me in on his story about a mad Dutch guy who had got off the train at a stop to take pictures and never got back on!He was last seen by someone chasing after the train.Late that night he arrived with his tale of woe and to collect his baggage that adge and another English guy carried to the hostel for him.I spent a couple of lazy days touring Beijing on my bike and eating and drinking to my hearts content.Then it was time for some serious sightseeing so on the 8th Aug me and adge visited Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.It was a weird feeling to be in Tiananmen which was a place of such positive and negative events in the countrys history.From the proclamation of the Peoples Republic of China to the Massacre in 1989, the square has been witness to both China's past glory and shame.The Forbidden City was absolutely huge and rammed with tourists.It was a great feeling to be in such a historic and important place as this and you could imagine daily life within the city walls long ago.One of my favourite parts was the rock garden in the north of the city where the Emporer would sit and choose girls for his harem.It must've been a tough life being Emporer of China!

Posted by worldwideG 21:54 Archived in China Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

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