Thursday, March 31, 2011


Imagine you have barely slept. The hostel where you decided to crash was really a restaurant with a few bedrooms, and the sounds of the all night kitchen crept through the paper thin walls.

There's no point of showering, because you are about to climb a mountain. Not that you are the outdoorsy type: in fact, this will be your first mountain. It's known as the most dangerous mountain in China, but you've been there just over a week, and have noticed the Chinese tendency to claim that everything is the "most" or "biggest" something.

So you go out and reach the foot of the mountain before dawn. Red fabric prayers litter the trees at the base of the cliff, and the old woman who sells you a map reminds you that this is the most dangerous mountain in the land. Despite yourself, a shiver runs through you.

There are shrines carved into the cliffs as you climb, for this is one of the Daoist holy mountains. You want so badly to explore these temples, but the incense that still burns on the mountain reminds you this is no ancient worship: these shrines are still devotional sites.

It's beautiful for the first two hours. But then, when the closest of the five peaks begins playing a game with you, appearing as if it is constantly over the next rise, your enthusiasm begins to flag. You are weary, your feet hurt, and you don't want to drink any water because the bathroom you just passed was nothing more than a building with four holes in the ground.

A meltdown can't be helped, but you manage to last from 5 a.m. until noon: then you sink to the ground in despair, having just passed the first point. It doesn't matter how badly you want to impress your traveling companion and psuedo crush: you can't move another step.

Imagine you did that, seven years ago. Some folks say that you regenerate your cells every seven years. Some people even use this to declare that you become a new person every seven years.

But you can still remember.

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