June 24, 2004

lost in the rain forest

at least that's what the hike we went on today felt like.

i took the day off work and me and ronda decided to get out of beijing and try a hike. ronda read about the hike in a book that anup had left in his appt (my current appt) entitled, strangely enough, "hiking around beijing."

the hike started in Jiu Feng Park. from there we were supposed to have an uphill climb for a long ways, at which point we would reach the a ridge. we were supposed to walk along the ridge for a while and then drop down on the other side and talk to a town called jian gou cun.
we arranged for a driver and left early in the morning. the starting point of the hike was a little over an hour outside of beijing and our driver supposedly knew where it was. of course he had to stop and get out to ask for directions about four or five times before we got close. once we got there we had some trouble identifying the actually beginning of the hike. finally we found a place that matched the description in our book and the ticket prices also matched, so we decided to go for it. we told our driver to meet us four hours later in Jiu Feng Park.
so we started on our hike right about the same time that the rain really started. we followed a rocky and slippery path up the mountain. we encountered a few different people on the trail (who were all walking down) and we seemed to be on the right path. at least until we got to the first temple. after that we were totally lost. and there was no one else on the trail. we walked for about three hours up the mountain. after about two and a half we were resigned to the fact that we were on the wrong trail because we couldn't see any of the landmarks that the book described and we hadn't hit any ridges.
the book was pretty poor and provided hand drawn maps with distance estimates that said "it should take you one and a half hours." we never saw the mythical fire tower and the two power towers. we also saw really lush foliage that was dripping with rain and team coming up from the rocks we were walking on, which gave the impression that we were in a rain forest.
after about three hours we reached the ridge of the small mountain we were climbing up. (based of the estimates in our book i'm guessing that we had climbed about 1000m.) we were very tired.
amazingly enough, when we reached the top we heard human voices. the first we had heard in the past two and a half hours. i have to say, coming from beijing, finding silence for that long is quite an unusual situation. we approached two gentlemen sitting on the ridge, eating and drinking tea. they didn't speak any engligh (of course) but seemed to indicate that the town we were trying to find was down the other side of the ridge.
we started waking down from the ridge and wandered into the sunlight. all the clouds were backed up on the other side of the ridge and this side was sunny and hot. after walking down a considerable ways we didn't have any sight of the town we were trying to go to and were feeling *very* lost.
we turned around and headed back up to the ridge in hopes of being able to see our destination from there. shortly before reaching the ridge we encountered an old man and his son. once again we started saying the name of the town we were trying to get to and pointing. the man realized we were talking english and turned to his son and (i imagine) told him to talk to us. of course his son (who was probably about seven) looked confused and tried using the dozen words of english that he knew to help us.
eventually we concluded that we were on the right path and had to keep going for about another hour.
so we turned around again and headed back down the ridge. after a while we started getting into areas that showed signs of habitation. gardens filled with assorted flowers and other plants in bloom. even a stray donkey standing by the road.
eventually we made it to jian gou cun and i was extremely happy to see our driver. on the ride back i fell right asleep while ronda sat terrified as our driver veered into oncoming traffic at high speeds to pass other cars and trucks.
but before falling asleep, when we were leaving the mountains, we did notice lots of areas that look like there were land slides. after a while we also noticed lots of trucks and quarries at the base of these areas. it seems like they were blowing up some of these hills to mine them for rocks. we passed what seemed to be a few quarries, brick factories, and a cement factory. i guess this is where the raw materials come from to support the insane rate of construction that i see daily in beijing.

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