Sunday, 7 December 2008

Tiger leaping gorge

I missed the early bus but arrived here later at around 3pm, a rough uninspiring looking, grey, dirty, road side town, so I quickly found and booked into a suitable similar room of uninspiring grey, dirty, cold and broken appearance, but I was feeling much closer to where I wanted to be, already the scenery had elevated either side and high mountains lined all around. I was eager for tomorrow there had been too many bus rides and not enough walking.

I settled down in my room a cool breeze now blowing through the missing glass in the window I could feel the evening chill of the higher altitude here. I made a warm drink then snuggled deep into my sleeping bag and switched on the it worked! I presumed it was there just to make the room look more furnished than it wasn’t and that probably everything inside had been removed to repair someone’s obsolete digital watch.
I flicked through the many cute, dancing fluffy pink chicken adverts, God knows what that’s all about? and finally come to rest at the start to an old kung foo movie, ahhh this is great I thought, very fitting and atmospheric. I quickly became engrossed with the skill and complicated routines, truly incredibly no special effect just damn hard training, focus and dedication, a trait to which I had been witnessing throughout China, or to be honest many of these Asian cultures that I have seen so far seem to have a great level of dedication and skill with what ever they put their minds to. I remember looking at some silk tapestries a few days ago, and of all the beautiful skillful things I had ever seen I think these were at the top of the list for mind blowing attention to detail. Incredible pictures made by stitching fine colored strands of silk to produce highly detailed and vibrant works of art, each color, shade, hue is pre prepared beforehand by mixing different strands of silk together, a laborious and skillful task in itself and then they are stitched in many different ways to follow form and to represent texture and surface, truly amazing.
I set my alarm for 5.00am. I decided paying the equivalent to 10 Euros a bit too much just to walk down a road past a little booth someone decided to set up and charge you to walk on the earth, if this is Gods work I thought, his creation then I wish to walk upon it and to admire it, so I decided to get up really early and sneak past.

My alarm rang out but I was already awake. I find this happens most times I always awake just before it goes off but if I did not set it I would probably sleep through, its like the act of setting an alarm is like subconsciously writing a little memo in the boot sequence of the brain.
It was still dark and very cold. I quickly got my gear together and opened my door everywhere black, no lights, nothing. I realized at this point that they would have closed and locked the front door so I switched on my headlamp and crept quietly down to explore the possibilities of a silent departure, yes the front door was locked, I remember from the previous day there was a way into the back yard through the kitchens. I tried the kitchen door it screeched on purpose as I tried the handle, shit why is everything so noisy and deliberate when you trying to be quiet? I quickly tried to compile some phrases in my mind in Chinese that I could use if discovered, quickly and hopefully before getting clubbed to death, but it was too dark in there also, my mind was not ready for anything complicated yet so I could not think of anything apart fluorescent chickens flashing, alarm, alarm, alarm!
Luckily the door out into the yard was unlocked and then it was just one last obstacle, the big metal gates that led out into the street, but surely these will be chained and padlocked, I started to mentally prepared myself for some sort of stealth climbing, scaling up smooth steel gates with 23kilos of bag, why do I get into these situations so easily? I tried the big bolt and latch, it opened and I was out, free I set off down the road, dogs barking and various early morning sounds followed my progress towards the ticket booth, I stealthed passed and then beyond into a pitch black road. I stopped to retrieve a badly printed tourist map out of my bag, it showed the start to the trail and the description both as abstract as each other, with this and having to navigate in the dark it was a little disorientating. There was a school described somewhere, then take a left past the inky blob then follow the trail.....yeah easy! OK I found the school, it said to go through, but of course it was locked, I searched around the buildings either side, a big dog jumped at the entrance at me and barked so I did not choose that one, then I found a side gate that was open in the other side, no dogs this time so I followed it around the side of a building, climbed over a small wall then came out to what turned out to be the school toilets, ah yes good I am in. A big open school yard, unlit, total darkness. I wandered instinctively in the direction of uncertainty with just my headlamp lighting up a small circle of school yard. I walked through as logically as I could through the yard, through the basket ball yard, through the football pitch and directly to a dead end, shit! no trail...... just steep cliffs to my left, but somewhere here the trail supposed to start, it has to go up here to the top of the ridge and then follows it east to the Gorge then turns northwards.
Well I knew where I need to be heading but could not find this trail, eventually I found some small tracks that looked like animal tracks but were going up into the trees roughly in the right direction, OK not much choice I decided to follow them hoping they would intersect with the main trail higher up. I started ascending up through thick trees and seemed to make good progress, it was completely dark and no sound apart from my ramblings through the undergrowth, strange, I stopped to assess things here and thought about it all, it was the middle of the night following what could be animal tracks up the side of a mountain yet I felt no fear or dissconcern. Somehow I knew it will all turn out fine.
Eventually higher up it did join a better trail, more defined all paths must go somewhere I thought and this looked a good direction. A little later there were cemented steps and well trodden, so I was feeling smug as this must be the trail and my decision was good in the end. Maybe for another 2 hours I was still climbing up and climbed up out of the trees to appear under a beautiful clear sky, so many times having to stop and gaze at the starts, so many, so clear up here. I did not care now if I was in the right place or not here and now I was in the right place being rewarded with such a sight and filling my soul with freedom and joy. I felt as though I was home, finally in the arms of nature.
I reached a village which seemed to coincided with the description of the trail, found a good vantage point to stop, so I ate and watched the sunrise.....I love these moments these little treats the simple pleasures, to stop to rest to eat whilst watching the best visual dawn display than yesterday, amazing how it keeps coming up with new stuff. Mother Nature surely is the ultimate artist.

I was feeling warm inside now and smug that I had managed to bumble upon the trail.....that feeling soon turned to doubt as I noticed many faces looking at me in a way that bridges the gap of communication barriers. There is no need for language in these situations it is written across their faces.....'what the hell are you doing here kind of a look'.....I thought one man must have lost his chickens, as he was frantically pointing and sounding very annoyed about it all, but that is just their way, Chinese, it all sounds a little frustrating and aggressive but they just want to know what, where, why and you really should not be going here but be going down there......OK it turned out that I was going totally the wrong way and I was in the wrong place, a local man materialized and soon put me right, but hey it all works out in the end. I seem to be lucky like this and wonder if it is the same for everyone else, something always seems to turn up just at the right time just before I really make a big blunder, out of no where people will appear and something will prompt them to put me in the right direction when my compass and map reading fail me. I am very grateful to whatever it is I need to be grateful to.

I walked for maybe an hour in the direction suggested by the little old man who lost his chickens and found the well marked trail that had big bright signs to follow, that took me on a journey of stunning, dizzy views following the deep Gorge of Himalayan waters. I walked for 12 hours that day always being tantalized by what must be just around the next turn, so ended up finishing the whole walk in one long day and was very happy to come to rest at a guest house run by a family of Tibetans, very friendly and very grateful for some customers. I had not seen one tourist all day, as it was out of season, it was so peaceful, no one comes here in winter, but that was great for me. When it comes to nature I am very greedy and selfish I want to be alone with her.

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