Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Emei Shan

Definitely one of the highlights of my trip was hiking Emei Shan (Mount Emei). It's one of the four Buddhist holy mountains.

Part of Emei, most of it is in the clouds, much taller than it looks

There are buses that leave hourly (as I recall) from Chengdu to Emei. There were two French guys on my bus. When we got to Emei I was a little concerned about how I was going to find my hostel, the Teddy Bear Hostel. It was dark and I had no idea where I was going. As soon as the three of us foreigners got off the bus, a bunch of taxi drivers all said, "Teddy Bear?!". We split the taxi. It was only a 5 min drive.

My hostel room had two Swedish girls, a girl from Nanjing, and a girl from Columbia. I like hostels cause you meet interesting people there.

I was originally planning on hiking the mountain for 3 days. I was going to go most of the way up in one day, summit and start down the 2nd, and finish the 3rd. It turned out I made it most of the way up the 1st day, summited the 2nd, came part way back down, and took a bus the rest of the way.
Emei Day 1
I might have been the first one up and out that morning. I left the hostel around 7:30 AM. I'm really not a morning person, but when I have something I'm excited to do, it can be a motivating factor to get me going. I stopped and got an egg and some baozi from a street vendor on my way to the start of the hike.
Near Loufeng Nunnery

I actually got really confused and turned around. At first I couldn't figure out where the trail was at all. I did a loop of the bottom area twice. Then I ended up hiking to a side nunnery that isn't on the trail to the summit. It took about 1 1/2 before I was on the right trail. At that point the information center was open, but it didn't have any useful information to be honest. The lady there spoke English but she didn't seem to be interested in helping. Haha.

Bagou Temple, first temple you come to on the pilgrimage
It was a nice day on the lower section. It was quite sunny and the temperature was very nice for hiking. When I say hiking, I mean climbing stairs. The whole trail is stairs. There were a few flat spots, but for 90% of the time you are either going up or down stairs.
I usually stopped on flat spots for pics, seriously it was mostly stairs
There are temples, monasteries, nunneries, and little restaurants/homes along the trail. I had a few Cliff bars, but I was able to get most of my food from vendors along the trail. It's recommended cause there are a lot of wild monkeys on the mountain that will go after food. The Colombian girl had a monkey jump on her and her backpack. She threw the bag and the monkey unzipped it, rummaged for food, didn't find any, and wandered off. She was not very happy with the experience, but it was a cool story.
A couple hours into my trek, I ended up walking with a little Chinese man. He was probably in his 60's. I tried speaking Chinese with him, but I couldn't pick up his accent and he wasn't understanding me much either. I caught on something about monkeys. I think he wanted to walk together cause monkey's don't usually go for groups more for solo travelers. We ended up walking together for 8 hours that day. We didn't talk a lot, mostly grunts or groans when we'd see a long steep set of stairs together, then we'd both laugh. I'll always have fond memories of him just because of all we went through together. Stairs, and lots of them.
One of my strongest recollections is the sound of both our feet on the steps and the tap of my bamboo walking step. It became rhythmic the further and tired we seemed to get. I was tired, but step, step, stick, step, step, stick. It was hypnotic. We didn't see any monkeys that day. That was my only real concern. We stopped at some of the temples along the way and he would pray and we'd move on.
We made it to the Elephant Bathing Pool area around 6:00 PM. We'd collected 4 Chinese women shortly before this. I was beat at this point. About 10 hours of trekking stairs and my legs were exhausted. I ran into the two Swedes outside a restaurant. I had gotten behind the group, so I wasn't able to tell them I was done for the day. I know my pilgrim friend was going to the top that day.
I knew I wasn't going to make it. My legs almost buckled under me. Once I stopped moving I got very cold, very fast. At this elevation, it was much colder and very misty. The cold went straight to your bones.
Temple I stayed
I ended up eating with the Swedes and stayed at the temple/monastery there at the Elephant Bathing Pool. It was amazing. There's the smell of incense, monks chanting, gongs of a bell, and the buildings enshrouded in mist. Unreal cool.
The rooms were alright, but the best part was the electric heating mattress. Yes, please. I crawled into bed and didn't come out again.
Emei Day 2
I planned to summit with the Swedes. We were going to get up at 4:30-5:00 AM and hope to get up in time to see the sunrise. Ha! We really got up around 6ish. Still too early. It was raining up until shortly before we left anyhow.
Snow near the summit
It still took us four hours to get to the summit. It was so misty, we wouldn't have seen the sun so it was just as well we didn't leave any earlier. It was pretty cold, but once you started hiking those stairs, your body temperature went up again. I was wearing all my clothes I had brought, but ended up taking the top layer off after an hour.

Golden Summit

On the way back down we saw a lot more people headed up. Most of them take a bus to near the top. From the buses, it's about a 2 hour hike, or a 20 min cable car ride. This is the only part I saw monkeys. The tourists were throwing food at them. Apparently the monkeys sleep in until the crowds come. Smart monkeys.

The Swedes decided to take the bus back to town. I decided to go with them. If they had hiked down, I probably would have followed too. I feel good about having hiked all the way to the top, but I have no shame in not hiking all the way back down. I still hiked 6 hours that day. I decided to be kind to my knees and spend my third day going to Leshan instead. I had heard good things about it from some other travelers at the hostel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

thanks for posting this.
i plan to go to e mei and your report is the first thing that gives me a good impression about the trip and what to expect, also helps my time management.