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Where We Went and What We Did

Popularity 4Viewed 5946 times 2016-7-16 17:21 |System category:Life

Now that I've gotten nearly all of the horror out of my system about Dallas and Nice, I shall resume my trip with Gary and Mask where I left off: the giant crater. It was the most exciting part of the trip. Well, as far as sights we saw goes, anyway.

Nature made, with man’s involvement restricted to carving the mother of all staircases into it, this cavity drills nearly 2 km into the ground. At the bottom lies a culmination of several waterfalls, spectacular when viewed from the depth. The river, a product of the four waterfalls, channels through a cave opening to form a natural pool. Once at the bottom, the hardy explorer experiences not only the drop in temperature but the damp from all of that cascading water.

We started out a little past 1PM, primed for adventure. Taunted by aromatic smells of deep fried potato cakes and roasted corn from the vendor stands Gary, Mask and I clomped down the gentle slope to the rim. Once there I asked if we could leave our bags at the security checkpoint. Whereas the guys had mildly loaded backpacks, I was carrying my side-slung bag, and it was getting a cumbersome. Especially because Gary thought it would be a good idea to buy some fruit along the way, and we were each carrying our share.

Permission granted to leave our bags at the check station, we started down the first of the stairs. I drew a lot of looks because I was the only foreigner there. Luckily, no one disrupted my downward momentum to ask for a picture, although some did snap a photo of themselves with me in the frame. Gary and Mask, not used to that phenomenon, commented on it. I have had plenty of time to get used to it so it didn’t bother me.

Climbing down presented no problem. There were stairs, lots of them! but they were mild and interspersed with a lot of downward sloping, flagstoned lengths. “Not too bad!” I thought to myself as we paused for a picture by a cavern. The guys expressed their concern for me. None needed, Guys! I can do this all day long.

And I did. We did. It took nearly two hours to make it all the way to the bottom. At the midway point there is a small refreshment stand, and many chose to end their journey there. They take a tea or maybe have a bowl of noodles and then resurface with their knees barely worked out. They enjoy the fools walking past to further depths. Some such fools rent bamboo canes to aid their descent.

We neither stopped nor rented. Blithely pounding pavement, we kept going. Beyond the midway point the hand railing changed from simulated gnarled wood woven together but actually made of concrete to something that resembled an intentional handrail, made of concrete and painted in a blond wood pattern. We weren’t using the hand rail anyway, but I did find the difference between the handrails pre-and post snack stand remarkable. It was almost as though the grips were saying “OK now. You’re getting into some deep stuff here. Do you want to reconsider?”

Oh, no. not at all. The guys skipped along and I marveled at my joints not even creaking as I prevailed, step after step. I wasn’t even breathing hard! This was GREAT!!!

On the way up is a different story, but we’re not there yet.

I think, by the time I got down to 1,700m down I was starting to feel weakness in my legs. It might have been that the air was closer, or cleaner or more moist. It might have just been the exertion of going down stairs for over an hour. With only about 300m to go to the bottom, I wasn’t about to stop. Mask, frisky as he is, made it to the bottom first and recorded Gary and my descent. Once we got there we broke out into a chorus of “We are the Champions!” people looked at us like we were fools. We were just giddy with our success.

It was short-lived, as it turns out. Going down approximately 4,000 stairs is vastly different than climbing them. My knees weren’t overexerted but I got winded very quickly. After making it past the first set of switchbacks – this staircase is set up like a steeply banked road up a mountain, my heart was pounding. Trying for deep breaths I found I had to stop every so often to get my ticker back into the normal range and force my lungs to function properly.

The guys got worried, seeing my red face and my trying to breathe. They are wondering if they are going to have to carry me out. Or, if they are going to have to hire someone to carry me out.

There are porters with litters fashioned of bamboo to carry those out who cannot meet the challenge. Gary inquired on the price of such a service. It was over 400Yuan… and that would probably be for a normal, Chinese sized person. I weigh twice what someone 4’10” with barely any meat on her bones weighs. They would probably charge double for me, or go charging back up the stairs in terror at the prospect of having to carry me.

I don’t need porters. I just need to get my wind back.

The guys climbed ahead at my urging. Left to my own tempo and with no escort, I found other climbers very encouraging. ‘Jia You’ (加油!) they kept saying: “Keep going!” We were all adventurers in the crater, didn’t matter if I was foreign, big, worn out, gasping for breath or massaging my knees – the one thing I did NOT do the whole climb. The Chinese stopped to massage knees and pound calves – their legs, not young cows. In our various stops we encouraged each other. That is the important part. Many asked where I was from and the usual questions I get, like about my age and my family. Rather hard to make entertaining conversation when you are trying to catch your breath, but I managed.

Every so often, Gary and Mask made sure I was OK by shouting a greeting or encouragement to me. I waved at them and tackled another set of stairs. At some point I thought that this adventure might have been a mistake on my part, but that was only once, toward the end of the concrete handrails painted to look like wood.

One interminable switchback after another. I rounded the current one and there was Mask, waiting for me. Groan! Did they resume their former worries about my passing out? Is that why he’s waiting?

No, he just wanted to formally escort me to the snack stand at the halfway point, where Gary sat waiting for us with cans of Red Bull and a glass of hot tea. HOT DOG!!! I made it to the halfway point! I am invincible! Nothing can stop me now!

And that was just the halfway point.

Finishing the climb with Gary who, by now, was feeling some pain we rewarded ourselves with a hot, stuffed potato snack. Mask had gone on ahead to retrieve our bags before they got locked in that office overnight. Gary expressed concern over how we would get back to town. We were back on level with the Earth; mundane concerns again intruded.

So what was the coolest part of this adventure: being the only foreigner there? Descending and then ascending on my own power? That tasty potato cake? The company I keep? Seeing that woman walk her pig down the road?

NOPE! The coolest part was the 10 minute motorcycle ride back to the main road! The guys on one scoot and I on another, the bikes piloted by expert riders sped us the rest of the way up the hill, our laughter tossed to the winds.

Picture 1: A view of the giant crater from its rim. Note the switching stairs!

Picture 2: The view from the bottom of the crater.

Picture 3: The Three Adventurers at the bottom.

(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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Comment Comment (5 comments)

Reply Report Chengking 2016-7-17 21:08
Two kilometers straight down and then back up, wow! My hat off to you.
Reply Report voice_cd 2016-7-18 17:04
Thanks for sharing your story here, we have highlighted it.
Reply Report Dracarys 2016-7-18 21:44
wow  .. splendid view ..
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-7-25 20:35
Chengking: Two kilometers straight down and then back up, wow! My hat off to you.
My legs appreciate your kudos...  
Wish you a great day!
Reply Report teamkrejados 2016-7-25 20:36
voice_cd: Thanks for sharing your story here, we have highlighted it.
Thank you! Wish you a great day!

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  • 2014-04-01 2017-9-24 17:21

    wonderful depiction

  • The 'Face' Effect 2017-8-17 16:51

    In the USA blacks demand all people of other races to call them "African American" Yet they call each other the"N" word everyday.Maybe they should folllow the law. Respect is earned and can not be foreced on you by any law.

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