In the morning we set off again to find the complete opposite of the previous day’s hike. The paths were congested with people and there was screaming, yelling, pushing and more screaming. It was like being back on the Shanghai subways. We forged ahead and eventually broke into a relatively quiet space between two rather large groups about 100m to the front and rear of us. We hiked all morning after watching the sunrise and eventually came to Lotus Flower Peak, the highest point of the mountain range at over 2000m. After climbing stairs that were carved into a sheer rock cliff, with both hands and feet on the steps, we eventually summited the peak where we found an old old woman selling noodles. How she got up there is a mystery, as there are only the stairs. Throughout the hike we had been passed by several elderly folks who giggled as they marched past us while we huffed and puffed up the mountain.
After summiting the highest point we followed the steps around to the back of the mountain and down to Celestial Capital peak, the second highest peak. Due to ice, the mountain was closed. We had been planning on spending the night at a hostel that was built into the side of the cliff wall on the opposite face of Celestial Capital, but with the mountain closed we were faced with two options. 1) climb down the entire mountain and spend the second night at the base, or 2) explore the summit and then take the cable car down in the morning. Amid a wave of screaming and pushing from locals and tourists we decided, quite quickly, to leave the crowd and set off down the Western steps of the mountain.
The steps down were steeper than the steps up, and further apart. With one bad knee it wasn’t long before I felt my poor knee screaming at me to rest. With no where to go except back up or all the way down, we pushed forward with the sun rapidly setting behind us. A cane salesman half way down the hill was only too happy to part with a wooden stick which he sold for 5Rmb to me as I hobbled up to his lonley booth. With the aid of the cane I was hobbling along at a speedy rate of a snail. However, throughout the descent we played the tortoise and the hare, as groups rushed past us only to stop exhausted and covered in sweat at each resting point where we slowly hobbeled past without pause. It was a trial, but one with amazing scenery and it was a beautiful and throughout the trip there were subtle surprises like a tiny waterfall or a neon bird that kept my eyes glued to the bamboo forest.
Once at the base I looked at the pedometer I had been wearing since 6 that morning. 13, 561 steps from the hostel to the temple at the bottom of the hill. That’s over 6.2 miles of sheer steps going straight down. The day before we walked 3.8miles going straight up (and then took the cable car when dusk approached). We stepped off our final stair, with the aid of the cane, at 4pm and caught a bus to the closest town. At the town we were lucky enough to find a Best Western. Ironically, we were looking for the hot springs and decided to check into the hotel to shower and change and rest for a bit before setting out to find the springs. During our check in we were informed that the hot springs were not part of the hotel. How fortunate for us, because we would have wandered all over the mountain side looking for a natural spring. We checked in, ate dinner, cleaned up and promptly passed out.
In the morning we were in for a real treat.
-Posted by Lauren.