Janne and I awoke pretty much the same time the next day. Before the sun. She lunged for her phone which had gone dead.
No worries, we had 30 minutes to get ready for our guide.
We didn't have to change our clothes, we were still fully dressed from last night! It came down to wees, ponytails, tea and breakast (granola bars and peanut butter sandwiches). And waiting for Sherry to show up, which she did, 10 minutes early. (We like that in a guide.).
We were not spending the night in the hotel with an S again, so we hired some people from the village (remember, the hostel was surrounded by 10 houses, including the one attached to the mom and pop shop where we bought our cup noodles the night before) to transfer our bags to the sister hotel in the city. For some reason I just knew they would arrive intact.
And we were off. Janne and I started briskly walking, trying to get warm and because we are brisk walkers. Sherry was determined to be first "I am the guide!" and so she was soon puffing as she staying a bit infront of us as we walked along a deserted road, which we now knew would connect to the main road where the bus was.
Sherry sang us a local song. SHe had a very nice voice. She told us a bit about herself and her boyfriend, her life. She works maybe 10 days a month as a guide. Her boyfriend is in hotels.
Since we were staying in the park, we didn't have to wait for the park to open, and the first bus that passed had room for us. We jumped in and up to an area. It was pretty foggy, but the hiking was great. Janne and I were having a great time, despite the limited vision. OUr guide asked if we wanted breakfast, and we said No, we ate at the hotel. We walked past these men who offered to give us rides either on motorbikes (!) or their sedan chairs. We continued walking. It was a beautiful morning and we weren't cold anymore.
Observing piles of litter, I asked Sherry why so there isn't care about the environment. She replied that it is the farmers who litter, and they haven't been to school to be educated about the necessity of using rubbish bins.
Janne and I found this answer fascinating. Janne said, "But the farmers do not have money to be doing tourist things. Here we are at a tourist place and all the rubbish, people unwrapping and then throwing away to the ground, those are not farmers. Those are people with money to spend who have been to school!"
Sherry said they weren't, that educated people were not the ones littering in the cities, etc in China. ANd we left it there.
We kept hiking. It was raining a bit and we were having a great time. We encountered a gentleman who was heading up a rocky area, and he offered to take us. We said sure.
This was a great part of the day. THe hike was extremely narrow, requiring us to duck under rocks, squeeze between them, and really check our footing. Lots of steep downhill, with no handholds. We had a good pace going, and suddenly became aware of 23 year old Sherry suggesting that we "maybe take a rest at the pagoda halfway".
"Sure," we agreed, sort of in surprise. I mean, I am 41 years old. Practically twice this girls' age!
We kept walking, and stopped at at shrine at the top. It was typically peaceful and we stayed there for a few minutes. We said goodbye to the gentleman, and continued on, although Sherry was wanting us to stay for longer! The next bit was really cool..Sherry asked us if we wanted to cross a hanging bridge, then climb a ladder and oversee the mountains. HELLO! She suggested she would take pictures as she is scared of heights and Janne and I scampered off.
Over the bridge we went and I confess, I was glad it was a cloudy day so I didn't see how far down the ground was! And then there were these two tunnel ladders (need to be tunnel ladders to direct your fall in case you fall!) and we climbed up maybe 35 rungs and then there was the top. Not much of a few, but we weren't there just for views, we were there for the journey. Even though i couldn't see a thing, i knew what we were doing was amazing.
This looks familiar, vaguely familiar,
Almost unreal, yet, it's too soon to feel yet.
Close to my soul, and yet so far away.
I'm going to go back there someday.
At one point, walking back, the men who had originally asked if we wanted sedan rides beckoned to us. They had a fire going and wanted to know if we wanted to share it with them, we reckoned. We had just climbed 150 stairs so Sherry was no where to be found, but that's what we figured they were saying to us. THey led us to an abandoned shack, and there was a really warm lovely fire going (lots of smoke, but at least it wasn't cigarette smoke!)! We waited until we saw Sherry, and told her where we were, and she was a bit surprised but gamely joined the party. She told us the men wanted to know how old we were. Janne told them to guess. They guessed she was 25 and I was 28. LOVE THE CHINESE, and smoke and firelight is great too.
THey had a good laugh when we revealed our ages, and one fellow said he was 41 also. I barked like a dog (1970 is basically the year of the dog) and he giggled and barked too. Then we left.
OUr day continued. We saw many more great things. Some things we chose not to see, such as the "cultural shows". This is where people in "cultural dress" come and dance and have their photos taken for you and then you get to pay for this pleasure. That's REALLY not Janne and Me. Sherry was disappointed. The show was 20 minutes long! We could sit for 20 mintues!But there is nothing authentic about this.
We kept walking in wonderment. Slippery rocks and fog. Seeing sights come and slip right by us as flog took over again.
Sun rises, night falls, sometimes the sky calls.
Is that a song there, and do I belong there?
I've never been there, but I know the way.
I'm going to go back there someday.
I did buy a 2RMB raincoat. But there were more people, and the visibility wasn't getting better so we stood in line to take the bus to ride the glass elevator. I think it was at this time, that Sherry emerged from asking when the bus was coming with pot noodles in her hand. Sherry! Sherry! Sherry! we were yelling! Janne and I reckoned we would be fine sans guide, so we jumped on the bus, and all of a sudden, there was Sherry with her 10am snack!
I'm not sure I am talking about bathrooms just yet. Or the various types. That might be a blog for an entirely different day. remind me though, ok? just say, LIFT BOG.
the glass elevator down to ground level. And once there, we were awed again by the incredible vistas. We walked and stared."This is so us," Janne whispered.
(Can I mention that Janne was an attraction of her own? I didn't see any other blondes there, and i believe on the second day we saw two Caucasian gentlemen. On the first day, we didn't see any other Caucasians. Janne had her picture taken plenty! i did meet a nice man from toronto during one of jannes photo shoots!)
The views we were seeing at times brought tears to my eyes. Janne and I were totally in sync, not just in pace, but in what we wanted to see and when. It was so wonderful to have these incredible sights, and no stress, no wondering if the other person was pleased or not, feeling like anyone was accommodating you, etc,..we were great travelling companions as well as such good friends.
Come and go with me, it's more fun to share,
We'll both be completely at home in midair.
We're flyin', not walkin', on featherless wings.
We can hold onto love like invisible strings.
The beauty of what we were seeing, the immensity, i really can't describe.
But we kept walking, promising SHerry , who was now massaging her calves, that we would eat very soon.
We took one last walk, knowing we had to leave soon, to buy our train tickets back to Changsha.
This walk was only a couple of kilometres both ways, and had a train if you would rather not walk. Well, you know what we would do. We waited for Sherry, and she told us that "being a tour guide is very tough, I would rather be an office lady." Janne asked if she does this every day, and Sherry responded, "No one can do what you ladies are doing every day!" and Janne said, "Yes they could!"
The walk (this part wasn't a hike) was beautiful, but we felt too short. We stopped at the end, choosing not to be photographed by the locals. It is really quite sad, they take the prettiest girls and throw them in costume, and so they huddle in blankets, waiting for tourists to come, and when they do, they chuck off the blankets and sort of pretend that they wear these outfits all the time. Eventually Sherry joined us, and we offered to let her take the train back. And she agreed.
Janne and I strolled back, and it was a great time of just talking, and laughing.
We met back up with Sherry, who was sitting and massaging her legs. "Already!" She exclaimed. So fast! But we hadn't been. We had stopped, taken photos, looked and read signs....
But it was lunch time. Since the meat had been sitting out in the sun for a while, we chose to go with just veggies and noodles from one of the stall sellers. One bowl of veggies, two bowls of rice noodles, tofu, veggies, one bowl of fried rice, for 20RMB. A great deal. We sat right near the stove, to stay warm, which sort of upset the owner, because they wanted us to sit out front so they could show the world they had foreigners.
Then it was time to go.
We left the park with regret, but appreciation. And the desire to come again.
We took a 2 RMB bus into the city, and then transferred to another bus that would take us to our hotel. We checked in. Our bags were there. THe room was fine, and apart from the fact there was a mountain of unwashed laundry right outside the lift, everything was perfect! We noticed a heater, and turned it on immediately. THen it was time to get train tickets.
We got in a taxi and Sherry directed us to the train station. We took careful note, knowing that tomorrow she wouldn't be with us. It was 6RMB I noted.
We bought train tickets, reserved our seats for the next day, and then Sherry asked if there was anything else. Janne and I looked at each other and decided we wanted to have a massage. Into another taxi, and to a massage place. Goodbye and thank you Sherry. She complimented us on our fitness and went to meet her boyfriend, thrilled with the bonus we had given her. The massage place was a hoot. It looked like a palace that was under renovations. It was filled with smoke, but for 128RMB we got a fantastic massage. THe ladies actually balanced us on their bodies, suspending us in the air. It was quite amazing! And then they braided our hair!!
Then the question of dinner. We weren't worried. THis had been such a magical trip we knew something would happen. We spotted a shop and went in. THey had apples and we happily bought some. And Yogurt for breakfast the next day. Water also. But no real dinner food as neither of us thought we could handle another night of pot noodles. What to do? We walked out of the store and found a street vendor.
Bingo. For 12RMB we got a great deal, much like our lunch, and including rice. NOt as spicy as I thought it would be as Hunan cuisine is known for spiciness. We hopped in a taxi, returned to our rooms, had showers, ate our dinners which included the last of the bread which had served us so well, read for a bit and then the drowsiness that was becoming quite familiar (plus, it was now 9.45!) took over me and we said Goodnight.
Unlike the night before, this night, before I fell asleep, i thought about how lucky i had been and all i had seen.
There's not a word yet for old friends who've just met.
Part heaven, part space, or have I found my place?
You can just visit, but I plan to stay.
I'm going to go back there someday.
I'm going to go back there someday.
Thank you Jim Hensen, for yet another great song.