26 year old Canadian, Dutch resident travelling to every country in the world (111 so far) to become the first Canadian female to visit them all. Bestselling travel AUTHOR and founder of popular #TRLT Twitter chat.
In a few days, we’d be returning to the quiet village to restock on essentials, but right now, the two-hour drive out of Lijiang highlighted an impressive mountain range that towered over us and prompted me to imagine I was immersed in a new level of Zelda, carrying “items” and “potions” on my back.
Even here, in the nooks and crannies of a deep, rocky gorge, people miraculously managed to cultivate and farm every spare inch.
I marvelled, as I looked across the narrow gap between towering cliff sides. A few horses were scattered about whenever our trekking trail opened into grassy fields.
Men looked up from their work to wave as we passed. It all seemed so mystical.
This’ll be your second World Heritage Site,” Ammon began.
During one of our hikes, Bree developed a nasty blister. Forced out of her stiff, new hiking boot, she started working on getting a callus under her foot, something she somehow didn’t seem to mind.
Despite the gorge getting deeper and deeper, the white painted peaks never seemed to get any closer.
The trail got narrower and narrower the higher we climbed.
I was comforted by the sight of the waterfalls glistening and splashing over different parts of the path.
I readily conceded that the trail’s vistas were breathtaking.
I was so happy to be around familiar words and accents. I had been craving any English that was not spoken by my family, because that was as unsatisfying as listening to my own voice.
Endless pots of tea in China, even on the trekking trail.
Chapter #22 “Get Lost!“
We had simply followed the high road and the solo path that squeezed between 5,000m (16,404ft) high cliffs on either side along with the rest of the tourists.
The dinky road we’d trekked had somehow and somewhere opened up into an actual street covered with tarmac.
“No, no. Much fastest old ferry. Better, better,” she explained with her few words, and as she was a friendly local, we believed her.
“Geez. It’s gotta be just over there.” He pointed down at a dirt track winding off in the direction of the gorge.
“We stirred up clouds of dust as the four of us slid down towards what we hoped was the right road.”
Chapter #23 “Flashback”
“A HUGE spider!” I choked with disgust. Leaping into the safety of the centre of the room, we yelled for Mom as we huddled together, pointing the light in every direction to avoid a sneak attack.
He just needed to hear a familiar voice. Mom’s initial fright faded, and she spoke calmly and soothingly. A lot had been happening in his part of the world, too much of it traumatic. He didn’t want to talk or think about what he saw and the friends he’d lost; he only wanted to listen to our voices. He even expressed concern about our safety.
Chapter #24 “Bree’s Birthday Fun”
“I can’t believe my whole birthday has to be spent on trains and buses!” Bree exclaimed. “Yep, eight hours on the bus followed by a thirteen-hour train ride. I can’t think of a better way to spend a birthday!” Ammon said, ever the brat.
“Whatever you decide to wear, Savannah, tomorrow we’re going to Leshan to see the biggest sitting Buddha in the world,” Mom piped in.
Chapter #25 “A Sacred Mountain and the Stairway of Hell”
My head fell back in awe as I passed under another decorative gateway. Red pillars reached down from the arched and pointed roofs, and a black wooden sign displaying golden Chinese lettering hung in the center. It looked incredibly mystical.
Walking sticks in hand and daypacks on our backs, we were awed by the sheer legion of stairs before us.
I took off enthusiastically just before a light drizzle began to dampen the leaves of the forest surrounding us
“The slopes of Emei Shan have been inhabited for ten thousand years. It’s one of the four sacred mountains in China, but this one is a thousand metres higher than the other three,” Ammon continued.
“No one except them,” Bree said, as we jumped out of the path of two men jogging past carrying a fat man in what looked like an old war stretcher with a modern twist. It featured a built-in seat made of sticks of bamboo painted blue, green, and red.
“Another million and a half stairs extending endlessly on into the fog.” – Emei Shan
A monk in the mist. – Emei Shan
Now that we’d reached our goal for that day, Ammon led us into the little wooden monastery which we knew had rooms to rent.
We listened as they repeated “Nanoo nanoo nee maa haaa” over and over again, and it was one of the most enchanting and wonderful sounds I’d ever heard. My reaction surprised me, as I would never before have understood its simple, calming beauty.
“We only knew from the increasing intensity of the smell that we were on the right track to the toilet as we took a long, creepy walk through the dark to get to it.”
It was raining when we started off the second day, and after only an hour I collapsed. Bree shouted, “Timber!” as I dropped my walking stick and hit the ground. I didn’t care that it was muddy and cold – I just wanted to rest.
They plunked themselves down on the handrails or blocked the stairs completely, as if they had worked out the art of collecting road taxes.
Being in a sitation where failing or giving up isn’t an option, you reach limits you didn’t think you could and begin to believe anything is possible.
When we finally reached the finish line, I could hardly see my own outstretched hand, let alone the big golden temple that was supposed to be on top.