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Published: October 2nd 2008
Everyone had trouble packing up the tents, sleeping bags and mats
I unzipped the tent to find the searchlight glaring into my eyes. I swore at the person with contempt as they laughed at the state of my morning hair. It was 5:30, yet the hilltops were still silhouetted against the moon. I gave my tent buddies a nudge, none budged. I gave up and made my own way to the hole, trying not to look down.
By 6, all tents were unzipped; I had trouble rolling the mat and sleeping bag but I had no intention to copy the girls who at that point were all checking out themselves against the back of a spoon while some guy did all the work. Just then I saw a teacher walking past holding a cup of coffee, how I could do with some caffeine! Instead we got powered juice and spicy instant noodles. Lena and I tipped ours behind the rocks sheepishly.
At 10 we were all set to go, I hoisted the pack over my shoulders and tightened the harness till it cut into my flesh. Everyone was carrying a piece of lunch material. I had 2 cucumbers to my disposal. It was all the way up again, this time
On the Road Again
We walked single file through the similar looking pathways
on even rockier and uneven paths. I had no clue where we were heading; we were just winding ourselves around mountains. There was nothing but mountains.
We had longer rests this time. I felt alright to start with, the fresh air definitely boosted my lung capacity. There was a lot of wildlife, from colorful insects, to dried fall leaves to exotic flowers. However the nature didn’t keep me occupied for long, soon the oxygen debt had caught up with me and I had a painful stitch at my side.
Towards midday we arrived at a cornfield, which was a labyrinthine. We got lost. Someone sprained their leg whilst another got cut on the leg. My friend got ill, so we split her belongings; I carried her water. 16 kg now. The teachers weren't so corky either. Just when the situation was looking desperate, some boys extended their hands to help others climb over the hard parts.
Lunch was the most welcoming thing. Only Glen bothered to help the Chinaclimb staff to prepare lunch, I felt a bit shameful when all I could do was to lend them my Swiss knife. Everyone was merely sunbathing on their bag.
Where we got lost, and we got delayed 1 hour here trying to work our way out of the maze.
On a normal day I wouldn't have eaten 3 sweet sandwiches, but hunger got the better of me. Even after we’ve been fed and watered, the hike was still unbearable. I’d been wearing the same pants and shirt, which by now are drenched in sweat. Everyone had a B.O. problem. Some sprayed perfume which seemed to just attract insects. Between the heat and the drowsiness I lost the sense of time.
Sometime in the afternoon a river snaked out before us. I immediately soaked my feet in the icy water to refresh myself. The ChinaClimb guides knew our needs well. They set up the Tyrolean, a traverse across the river. I went first. It was more of a test of how heavy people are, because the tall ones rather swam across.
Night had settled when everyone got through. The Tyrolean zipped us straight to the Miao Guesthouse we were staying. A traditional Miao Dinner was served (Miao is the 5th most populated minority groups in China). The smart people ate a lot knowing it was all they were going to get, plus the hosts and students cooked really hard for us. The guesthouse was quite commercialized, with a
I soaked my feet in the water to wash away 2 days of toil
shop selling coke which many secretly bought (and later confiscated). These villagers who live so far away from the outside world seemed to practice a lot of different things such as stepping on glass, fire swallowing and climbing up a knife ladder barefooted. I couldn’t bring myself to watch much of it. The show woke everyone from their slumber. We all danced to the music.
Eventually the music died. The guides seemed to be reluctant to break to us what the sleeping situation would be. What could have been worse than a squashy tent and a doona-like sleeping bag? We found out exactly what. We were split into 4 tiny rooms, each with moldy walls, concrete floors, holes in the windows and a leaky ceiling. 10 sleeping bags could just fit with no alternative space.
Lena and I have gotten rather close during these few days, and as we came back from the ghastly bathroom with our face and teeth cleaned, underwear changed and deodorant rolled, we were shocked to find tears glistening on every girl’s face. What an eye opener. It soon caught the attention of adults, and next thing I knew we were all being lectured.
People zipping across
the light ones never had to touch the water
They expressed concerns about our anorexic eating habits and our pickiness on the no-shower situation. The talk did no good, for as soon as they stormed out, mobiles were switched on and calls to parents were made. I couldn’t make out what they were saying amid all the sniffing.
The phoning part really touched the nerves of the teachers, who made it clear that without their permission any electronic communication were banned. This did not improve anyone’s mood at all. I actually felt sympathetic instead of critical for once. I understood. I felt like breaking down too. I needed a shower, edible food and a bed, or some half descent sofa. But I tolerated. The situation did not improve as the night advanced, people grew reliant on medication because they got a stomachache, period, headache or in the worst case diarrhea. On top that: dogs howled the whole night through, chickens crowed, babies and girls both cried. It was such a magical time.
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