23. September 2019
A bit exhausted I finally arrived in China. The last weeks had been pretty busy, trying to finish everything back at home for my two main jobs and of course also preparing this new journey. Probably I hadn’t slept my normal seven to eight hours for the last two weeks and so I was glad that at least Chengdu, the city where I arrived, was already somewhat familiar to me.
Taking the metro I shortly afterwards arrived at the mix hostel, a place I had already stayed at the last two times I visited China. Considering the time of the year, it was relatively empty but the staff was welcoming as ever. We started talking a bit and one of the staff members asked me whether I would like to join him, his girlfriend and a friend of his for dinner.
Shortly afterwards - after his shift was officially over for the day - we took a taxi to a “food street”. A lot of hole-in-the-wall restaurants were located next to each other, offering almost everything you could wish for - and of course also some dishes you might be hesitant to try. He asked me whether I had already tried “cold” hot pot. The normal Sìchūan hot pot is famous and feared by travellers for its general level of spiciness, but sitting together around the bowl of boiling chili broth, dropping vegetables or meat in it, is a fun way to have dinner together. For the cold variant you instead choose sticks of whatever you fancy, but them into a basket and shortly afterwards they come already boiled in a bowl.
Originally he and his girlfriend where from Guangdong, a province in the south of China next to Hong Kong. They were somewhat surprised to hear that the current political situation in Hong Kong was a comparatively big topic in the Western media and they themselves were a bit undecided on what to think about it. According to the news they read, the protests were mostly by people fearing to loose their privileges.
I also told them that I had originally planned to go to Seda, a Tibetan place in Sìchūan famous for its monastery. Unfortunately the city has been closed to foreigners in 2016 and according to some news articles controls even have increased this year. My hosts told me that they had read that this was due to too many people visiting Seda, something I could hardly believe, considering that it not on one of the commonly travelled routes and it takes a full day to reach it by bus from Chengdu.
After having some surprisingly good desert we returned to the hostel at 11 pm, having only spent 50 RMB (~6 Euro) for the whole evening each. He also organised me a taxi for the next morning, since I had forgotten that the metro only opens at around 7 am in Chengdu - too late to catch the train.
At 5 am I got up, obviously still tired. Fortunately everything went smoothly and the bullet train brought me in just a bit over an hour to the train station of Emei Shan, one of the Four Great Buddhist Mountains in China (another one being Wutai Shan). Most of the year you can expect clouds and rain, but on the other hand you can enjoy three days of hiking.
Starting from the train station I would have to ascend more than 3000 meters due to some up and downs inbetween and everyone who visited some of the great mountains of China knows that means: stairs, lots of stairs. The reasonable thing to do would be to store all luggage expect for a small daypack in one of the hostels near the foot of the mountain, but since I wanted to test myself a bit for the upcoming treks in Tibet and Nepal, I was not reasonable. Thousands of steps later on I felt the weight of my big backpack. That I hadn’t had enough sleep in the last days didn’t help either. Slowly I climbed the stairs, getting more and more exhausted. Admitting that I had overestimated myself, I allowed myself to rest every few hundred meters. During one of these rests two monks came by and encouraged me to come along. Shortly afterwards we arrived their monastery, where I was offered accommodation, for a fee of course. Happily I accepted it, hoping to gain a enough energy during the night to climb the rest of the stairs the next day.
Not fully refreshed, but still feeling better, I left the monastery the next morning, not meeting any other tourist climbing the way up. The last day I had also only met one foreigner. Instead I was encouraged by some Chinese tourists walking their way down. They admired me for carrying everything with me and gave me the thumb ups. If only they knew how exhausted I felt inside.
One other person was also hiking the way up: not a tourist, but a construction worker, carrying some tools with him. Unfortunately we didn’t really have a way of communicating due to my limited knowledge of Chinese, but it was still good to have someone around, sharing the same burden. Sometimes I was ahead of him and he caught up with me when I was catching my breath, sometimes I caught up with him, typically when he was having a smoke. Eventually we both made a rest at one of the many stalls on the mountain, offering drinks and food at high rates. One of his colleagues offered me his service as a porter, but stubbornly I insisted on carrying my bag myself.
After some hours I arrived at the bus station somewhat near the top, seeing where all the tourists climbing down the mountain have been coming from. The cable car was not that far away and so were the next stairs up the mountain.
Finally I arrived at the summit of Emei Shan, nearly 3100 meters above sea level! Unfortunately it was cloudy and very slowly started to rain. Therefore I decided, after walking around a bit, to not hike all the way down again, but instead took the cable car and the bus downwards.