Monday, November 05, 2007


China is surprisingly mountainous. There were recommended mountain hikes near every city we had visited, but one sounded best of all - Emeishan. It is a holy mountain, with many monasteries, but the main attractions are the monkeys. Our guidebook even had a section called 'When Monkeys Attack.' A hostel at the base of the mountain lends out walking sticks that you can use to defend yourself...
The mountain is over 3000m tall (2400m from the base) and it should take about 12 hours to climb. On the first day, we (Anthony and Dave) only climbed for about 3 hours, reaching a monastery where we could stay overnight. It was a very peaceful night, drifting off to sleep with monks chanting in the distance, and waking to join in some tai chi. Oh, and pancakes with banana, apple, chocolate and honey for breakfast at the Hard Wok Cafe!

The second day, we climbed for over 9 hours to the summit. This hike was unlike any other mountain I have climbed. First, it was stairs the whole way. And I mean concrete stairs, perfectly even, with concrete railings, all the way up. I figure we climbed at least 15-20,000 stairs! And, it was foggy the whole way too. You could just about make out the 50 stairs ahead of you, and some trees to either side of the path. This was a little disappointing, especially when we reached the top and it was still foggy. I have no proof that I actually climbed a mountain. No beautiful view. No glorious sunset or sunrise. And we could barely even make out the shape of the majestic temples and statues at the summit. Kind of a bummer.

(not my photo)

But the monkeys were fun! The first time we saw monkeys was in the 'Joking Monkey Zone' - a section of trail that felt more like a zoo. There were lots of monkeys right along the path, but they were gathered there because tourists would feed them. And there were 'keepers' to make sure the monkeys didn't get too aggressive. Just past this area, we met our first threatening monkeys. There were no keepers about, and three monkeys were blocking the stairs. We tried banging our sticks and showing the monkeys that we had no food, but they weren't fooled. They bared their teeth and moved towards us and we began to worry. Just then, some locals calmly walked by and the monkeys moved out of the way. We darted past.
Our only other encounter with monkeys was near the summit. This area was also very touristy and the monkeys were well fed. I tried to dart past a monkey on the righthand railing. He suddenly ran down the railing, across the path behind me and up onto the lefthand railing (right by me). Before I knew what was happening, this clever little monkey had stolen my bottle of orange juice that had been strapped to the side of my bag. He ran off down the stairs. Once he was sure that we were not following, he stopped, quickly bit off the top of the bottle and chugged the whole thing. I would have taken a picture, but I was now afraid of having my camera stolen too.

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