|The Endless Steps of Pain|
What the f- was I doing???!!
I suppose after my failed attempt on Annapurna Base Camp, and how good my foot felt on the descent, I still had some Buyer's Remorse on turning back. So when I looked at my Big Plan (basically a bunch of crumpled-up scribbled maps) and noticed Emei Shan, the holy mountain, I suppose I saw it as a chance to redeem myself. This so-called "mountain" was only 3100m (10,300') tall! I scoffed at its lowly altitude, after all, I had summitted Poon Hill recently which was the same height. (I tried to forget that it was mostly on the back of a Nepalese donkey.)
Now after my experience of Leshan, I was very nervous about what the trek would really be like. But after talking to the travel agent at the hostel, it sounded great. There happened to be a road that wound up the backside of the mountain, far from the trail, that ferried all the packaged Chinese tourists near the top. And from there a cable car took the herds up the last bit. Unbelievably, there was even a monorail on the top of this holy mountain that took tourists from one peak to another! But I realized that the road and cable car was a huge blessing: it emptied the trail of Chinese. The travel agent assured me, "No problem! Chinese very lazy! You have all trail only you." Sweet.
I started at Wannian monastary, and my plan was to get near the top for a sunrise summit attempt. I have begun to visualize the billion Chinese with their newly acquired spending cash as the Great Zhongguo Flood. Any major tourist site that is on low ground (i.e. easily accessible by bus or cable car) is doomed to the rising Chinese waters. They swarm around these sites, every hour of the day, seven days a week, snapping pictures, yelling on their phones, getting yelled at by their tour guides on their loudspeakers, and generally buzzing forth like a Biblical plague of locusts. So when I saw the scene at Wannian, I wasn't too fazed. I was ready this time.
|1 Puxian, 6 tusks, 1000 buddhas, a gazillion tourists|
The moment I stepped off the main highway to the "walking path," I felt odd. I was a few steps apart, but the parade of Chinese walking back and forth from bus to temple only gave me an occasional confused glance. I was suddenly free. I walked up the steps, and soon found myself in a beautiful pine forest. The path was completely empty. As I walked, slowly my ears adjusted from the din of loudspeakers just around the corner. Then I noticed a different, much quieter noise. Birds chirped above, cicadas buzzed and frogs croaked. The treetops swished in the breeze. There was no other noise. A slight smell of pine wafted in the air, sunlight filtered through the green ceiling to the mossy carpet below.
I noticed I was smiling.
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