View from my starting point.
Today I took that long hike in the mountains. It was really gorgeous! I took tons of pictures that I will upload here. Fortunately it was cooler up there than in the town. At 9:15 this morning a driver picked me up from my hotel and drove me partway up the mountain. I was a little disoriented, because I didn't realize when I signed up that I would be doing the hike solo. I was worried about getting lost without a guide. He dropped me off at a temple called Gantong temple, which is also the site of a chairlift up more of the mountain. I was so focused on figuring things out that I did two really stupid things. First, I forgot to look at the temple. I didn't know where I was going, and ended up going straight to the chairlift.
View of the first chairlift.
Second, I stopped to try some fruit from a vendor on some of the steps outside the temple. (My lunch was going to consist entirely of peanuts if I didn't get something more.) I decided to get another pineapple since the last one was so good. I'm really embarrassed to admit what happened, but I ended up paying 45 RMB for the damn thing. That's $7!!! An insane amount of money to spend. I think they usually cost about 8 or 9 RMB. That vendor really saw me coming and made the most of it. I'm trying to get past it by convincing myself that she really needs the money to help her struggling family, or something like that. I still don't know why it didn't dawn on me to object, except that I was thinking primarily of where to go next.
At the Qingbai stream.
I'm really mad at myself--how stupid I must have looked! The lady was calling stuff out to the other vendors as I left. She was probably bragging about how she had just gotten the stupid laowai to give her a half-day's worth of profit.
OK, I'm going to try to let go of the $7 pineapple. (Deep breath.) I moved on to the chairlift building. I was a little worried about this, because I wasn't sure what to expect. I have a fear of heights. But it ended up being one of those really modern chairlifts that consists of 6 person capsules, kind of like the London Eye. It didn't really bother me, because I had walls on all sides. The ride took about 15 minutes, because they go really slowly. Once we made it to the receiving platform, we were near the Qingbi stream.
(I'll label the photos of these places when I load them.) There were tons of tourists there, and there was a Buddhist statue in the water that they came to see. Then came the stairs. So many stairs. I climbed for about 15 minutes, and was beginning to worry that I had misunderstood what kind of hike I'd be doing, when I finally reached the trail. My fears about getting lost were immediately put to rest. The trail is paved the entire way, so you really can't lose it. This is considered the starting point of the 11KM hike on the "cloudy tourist trail".
The scenery that followed was really indescribable. I have photos, but they won't do it justice. I walked around 3 different major hills/mountains.
Buddhist statue at the Qingbai stream.
(I mean "around" in the literal sense. You'll see in the photos.) There were waterfalls, vistas that showed the lake between the mountain peaks, streams, rock formations, and lots of chirping birds and wind in the trees to set the audio atmosphere. Oddly, I came across two army camps there as well. I have no idea what they were doing there. Maybe they were there in case of forest fires, or if a hiker gets hurt. But there seemed to be at least two dozen men living in these camps. The trail was lined with a water pipe and had fire hydrants every so often. There were lots of signs saying that fire was forbidden, and they ask you if you have any lighters at the time you enter the park. If yes, you have to surrender them.
Pool of water at the top of the Qingbai stream. (The water is turquoise.)
They are serious about trying to prevent a forest fire on the mountain.
Apart from the army men, I passed no one during the first half of my hike. (Those tourists at the beginning were just there for the first site, not to hike.) Then I started to pass people who were hiking in the opposite direction during the second half. (Including a girl who was hiking the trail in heels. Unbelievable!) I took a couple of the detours that were supposed to lead me to other scenic sites, but those never seemed to pan out. By the time I neared the end, the scenery was less impressive and I was getting pretty tired of walking. My driver was meeting me at the pickup site at 2:30, so I had to watch my time. I got to the temple at the end of the hike and had a chance to look through.
An odd life-sized game board of some sort.
It really wasn't anything that special. Or maybe I'm just getting templed-out. Then I headed for the chairlift at this site that would take me back down the mountain, and started to panic. I had wondered why my guidebook had referred to it as a "rickety old chairlift", when the one I rode first was so modern and nice. Well now I saw the reason. The chairlift at this end was the park-bench-that-hangs-off-a-wire kind. But I didn't have any choice. It would have taken me several hours to hike back down the mountain to the pickup site.
So I got on the chair and started my descent. At first it was ok. The ground was not too far beneath me. (Still enough that I wouldn't survive a fall, but that's not how a fear of heights works.
) But then we got out to some valleys that were much farther below, and the wind picked up. That really freaked me out. In addition, every time the chair got near one of the support towers it would start to vibrate and the hook thingy would start making these creaking noises. Well, lets just say that was an extremely long 20 minutes of my life. (Yes, a full 20 minutes of terror!)
But I'm kind of proud that I've ridden on one of those contraptions, and the hike was just amazing. With all of the side trips, I'm sure I walked at least 7 miles, including hundreds, if not thousands, of stairs. So all in all, a wonderful day! (Apart from the pineapple.) Now I'm going to load some pictures and get ready for my massage! Sadly, I leave Dali tomorrow morning.
A vista with Erhai lake in the background.
If I hadn't already bought my train ticket, I'd stay here longer. At 9:30 tomorrow I'll head out to the bus station to ride a bus back to Kunming
, where I'll take a taxi to the train station, then take a 22 hour train ride to Chengdu
. (Luckily I have a sleeper berth.) I guess all of that sitting will give my legs plenty of time to recover from the climbing today!