My first adventure in China wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but when my friends invited me to do a weekend of hiking in an unknown mountain town (which I still have NO idea where it is on the map) I couldn’t turn it down. The result was a weekend of exploring rural China while also challenging myself physically and mentally.
Organized by an expat run tour company, we took a 6 hour bus ride on a Friday night towards a location that even Google Maps wasn’t able to find. We spent our first night in a local guesthouse, freezing in our minimal room. In the morning, as the rooster crowed, we realized the reason we were freezing is because the windows were left open! In China logic is simply not the same as in the west.
After a Chinese breakfast of porridge and boiled eggs, we began our day of hiking with everything we had on our backs. I have to admit that I’m a minimal hiker – most of the hiking I’ve done was in Korea where paths were paved and it was often enjoyable and you hike at a leisurely pace. We were with a group of 40 expat hikers, more than half of them were experts and prepared. I had NO idea we would have to hike to our next destination (meaning carry my backpack and my camera bag, which alone weighs almost 5kg) and didn’t bring any snacks or water. There was also no vendors on the hike (which was a regular sight in Korea).
At first the scenery stunning and peaceful, and I hiked along with not a care in the world. Within an hour I staring to feel the exhaustion, and I trailed to the end of the pack of hikers where I stayed for the rest of the weekend. I believe in taking my time, although it made me guilty to know people were waiting for me. One of the trip organizers stayed with me the whole time for which I will be forever grateful! She also took my backpack and refused to let me carry it. At this point embarrassment washed over me but I soon realized this was NOT a beginner hike. In fact, there wasn’t even a trail! We had a Chinese guide at the front of us hacking the trail with a machete as we walked. After 6 grueling hours, we finally reached our mountain village where we would stay for the night, in mud floored huts and bunk beds.
Just when I thought it was time to relax, we were off again on another ‘leisurely’ hike. Luckily this one was only 2 hours and it actually was more enjoyable since it wasn’t as difficult. Finally we were ‘allowed’ to relax with some beers, and out in the village. It was an interesting experience to see how people in the mountains lived, so far away from cities and simple conveniences, like heat. People brushed their teeth outside, went to the bathroom in outhouses and wore their coats at all times.
I have never been happier to see food at dinner time. We had a traditional Chinese meal with rice, chicken, loads of different veggies and all of which was extremely delicious! At this point I didn’t have anything beyond a few boiled eggs at breakfast so anything would’ve been delicious. We watched as a Chinese group of hikers next to us had a pig roast and partied. We simply enjoyed our beers, amidst the stars and realized we were exhausted and it wasn’t even 9pm yet! However this night hanging with new folks was the highlight of this trip. We snuggled into our sleeping bags for a much needed sleep, with no heat, a hut filled with 12 people. On Sunday, we rose at 6am to get prepared for our final hike, with our backpacks, to head to the summit of the mountain, and then back down to where our bus was to pick us up. We had 6 hours to complete this hike. IN THE RAIN!
At this point my body was already aching, but I had no choice (even though quitting and perhaps dying on this mountain were option that crossed my mind). The rain made the hike MUCH more difficult (was that even possible?!) because it made the trails slippery. We had to walk one by one, across creeks and rocks. I slipped numerous times, even cracking my phone in places. But I kept my focus. Until I looked up and realized that the hike was only upwards, no plateau. Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse! I did appreciate the bamboo forest around me and the fresh air of being in the mountain. We had no view when we reached the summit due to the fog and rain, however I did get some captivating photos. I was told we had to climb over the mountain to reach our bus.
The happiness I felt when I saw the bus in the distance is indescribable. I was finally at the finish line! The expert hikers had to wait for us for almost an hour in the rain but at this point, the beginners didn’t care. All I could think about was a shower and sleeping in my warm, comfy bed … in about 8 more hours. We were starving, delirious and feeling accomplished. We did, we literally hiked a mountain.. and I vowed to never do it again in China. It’s one of those things in my life that I can say, been there, done that.. but NEVER again!