January 20, 2009

Mt. Huangshan, China

Wanting to imitate the little hand drawn monks I saw roaming the cliffs in the old scroll paintings hanging in the Shanghai Museum, I decided to embrace the cold and ignore the persistent voice in my head telling me to run (run!) south into the warm arms of Vietnam, running instead to the base of Mt. Haungshan.
I was looking forward to channeling my newfound inner heater as Mt. Huangshan, famous for it’s steep and jagged granite peaks covered in pines and surrounded by clouds, stands 1,800 meters above sea level.
Rising before the sun, I made my way downstairs and was greeted by a 6’4” Finnish boy who, like me, was waiting for the bus to the mountain. My fortuitous meeting with Ville provided me celebrity-by-association status as many, many Chinese were absolutely fascinated with his height and either stared in wonderment or made excited requests to have their picture taken with him. Some were even kind enough to include me in the photo after registering my disappointment at not being regarded as special.
Although we condensed a six-hour hike up thousands of steps into an 18 minute tram ride to the top, there was still plenty of climbing from peak to peak to be done. After a few blissful hours wandering through uninterrupted nature, it was not my thighs or calves that ached from all the exercise, but rather my jaw, as it kept dropping with each new spectacular panorama.
One of the highlights to spending the night at the top of the mountain is the opportunity to catch the much-hyped sunrise. Ville was kind enough to silently judge me when I told him that I was planning on sleeping in and I am glad that I changed my mind when his eyes pierced through my words, because as we sat on the rocks early the next morning, above the clouds, watching the sky turn brilliant shades of orange and pink, I was not only happy to be awake, I was happy to be alive.

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