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The Hike

If we had only know before it would last 8 hours... we would have brought more than 2 bottles of water and some snacks.

The next morning Joe and I got up bright and early, and then had to wake Jason up at 8am when we figured his alarm didn't go off. We were supposed to meet Linda's friend Ivy by eight so she could get us on the busses and to the meeting point her friend set up who posted the hike on shenzhenstuff.com:

http://www.shenzhenstuff.com/events/dongxi-chong-coast-hiking-on

We were about 10 min. late, but when we got there it was no problem because the woman we were meeting was the nicest, cutest Chinese girl I have ever met (and that includes to my present point in time, which is a month into our China trip, not just our first morning). "Hello Eye-V" Jason said in a very distinct British accent. She introduced herself very quickly, then got us onto the bus. The bus was very crowded so it was hard to hear what she was trying to tell us about the hike and about the meeting place. All I really got was that we needed to go and buy more water. Ivy told us that the water in China is not drinkable unless you boil it, so everyone has to buy their own water. This was crazy to Joe and I because the Chinese cities are so big, and we couldn't believe that they have so many people, a lot of whom are poor, but no drinking water. In any case, we made it to the meeting place about 30 min. later and had time to pick up some water bottles from a street vender.

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Here we met Angela (the girl who organized the hike), and we are thankful that we have to wait around to meet most everyone else (meaning we weren't the last ones to show). Some people begin to trickle in, most of whom spoke English (how lucky are we? Answer: very). But I guess in Shinjin it isn't too uncommon to find people who speak some English because it is such a young city, and they have English classes now that start in Primary school. But if you can't find English speakers, as Joe will soon discover, most people also know Mandarin (the Chinese language he learned). Even though we are in the south where they speak Cantonese, this city is filled with young migrants from all over China, and the other language they teach in Primary school is Mandarin.

Once everyone showed we packed into the van Angela rented that was suposed to fit 14 but only had space for 10. Yeah... it was cramped... and I don't have much else to say about it... so... who wants to see pictures of China from outside the van?!

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It was about an hour drive to the coast of China, and when we got there it was very foggy, so we couldn't see very far, and at first I was really upset about our bad timing, but later I found out that China is like this a lot. And its not fog, or vog, but pollution pure and simple in all of its unnatural complexity. Oh well, I guess we should have seen that one coming. But on the brighter side, we got to get out of the van!

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We walked through this little town and its rice fields before we made it directly to the coast. And as usual on this trip, nobody keeps us in the loop, and even though most everyone spoke English, they spoke to each other in Chinese a lot. One guy even mentioned that Angela speaks more English than she does Chinese, and I think if she had known him better she would have slapped him up side the head. "I know that, but I speak in English so Joe and Vanessa can be in on the conversation too!" After walking into the jungle away from any visible trial I finally got an answer from Cathryn about the van leaving us when we started to climb up into the hills. She said that the hike may take a few hours, so the van is going to meet us at the end of the trail so we don't have to hike back up the coast. I gave a sigh of relief then, and I didn't even know what I was in for (we wouldn't have made it back alive if we had to do the whole thing over agin).

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At the top our first hill we saw a tour group come up the jungle after us, and another one was following right behind them. Angela told us that this is a very popular hike for the Chinese to do, and so since it was Saterday the place might be a little crowded with groups of people doing the same hike. This was really cool with me because even though I trusted that Angela knew the way, I didn't trust that we would always stay together. So with loads of other people hiking along the coast, I figured we couldn't get all that lost. Ocean on the left, huge scary cliffs on the right, Chinese people to the front and back. Got it.

Within the first 15 minutes we already lost the ABCs. "Has anyone seen the ABCs?" Angela kept asking once we realized that our group was smaller. At first I thought she was trying to say some sort of joke that only Chinese people would get, and then they told me what ABC stood for. "Oh, well," Angela began, "they don't really count anyways, so lets move on." She was kidding about the not really counting part, but also a little serious. ABC = American Born Chinese. I wondered why both of them spoke absolutely perfect English. Angela was very good, and so was Cathryn; but you could still hear their accents. Anyways, I shall press on too because my random side note comments don't really count either.

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That last picture is of my new buddy Martin. He spoke very little English, and what English he did speak, I had a really hard time understanding. But for whatever reason, he was determined to speak with me and get the lowdown on everything about America. He mostly wanted to know the cultural differences between China and America, and this being my first day in China and all, I didn't really know what was different either. We had a lot of awkward pauses trying to figure out what might be different about us socially speaking, but eventually we got down to the subject he seemed to be really interested in... but we aren't there yet.

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Thats Angela leading the group. She is fast, agile, and never gets tired or worried that a climb is too steep or a rock to slippery... we were all in awe.

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Thats the rest of us trying to catch up with her. And no, this would never be a hiking trail in America. They would rope it off with metal bars that have danger signs written all over it. Joe and I agree that we love this about China! It was a challenging, but thrilling hike (and you don't hear too many people in America describe their hikes as "thrilling" which seems like a shame to me now that I've done it).

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Now it was 4 hours into the hike, it was time for our lunch break. (My hair is wet from the sea water... really). Thankfully for us everyone else brought more than some crackers and almonds, and they were willing to share.

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And then after about 15 min. it was time to hike again.

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At this point we've been hiking for almost 6 hours, and many of us were getting a bit tired. Every time we came to a big cliff we would have to climb over we would think, "Oh thank god we're almost done!" And then we would see another long stretch of coast line that went on into the grayness. But this time we were sure, we had to be almost done. There were several tour groups sitting around the base. One guy was collecting pointy little sea urchins from the water, another group was listing to chinese music as they sat under umbrellas (it wasn't sunny out, but you never can be too careful. The Chinese think that being pale is very beautiful), and another group had a march playing that they used to hike up the cliff, something John Phillips Sousa-ish.

So here is a pic. from the top of our rather dangerous climb up some steep rock that led right down into some shallow water with crashing waves!

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We all had a kinda hard time with this one. When you get to the top it comes to a tiny peak that doesn't have a distinct "go this way" feel pretty much anywhere. There was just down, and then more coast (much more coast) on the other side. Eventually we found our way around the side to where there was a ledge that led to a rope that was tied off about a forth of the way down the peak with little knots in it that seemed to say, "climb down me," but I wasn't sure if I should. I hung out there for about 15 min. while waiting for Joe, Ivy, Jason and a couple of others in our little break off group to make it over the ridge. There was one section where you have to Prince of Persia it across, holding you back to the wall and then flipping over, grabbing some vines and jumping down about 8 or 9 feet to a ledge. Joe climbed down first, and then Jason held onto Ivy's hand, dangled her down the cliff, and then Joe caught caught her (those of us watching clapped). Then we watched a few of the guys go down the rope, figured it would hold our girl weight, and we climbed down after them.

Now tack on another hour to our hike... and people were starting to slooooowwwww dddddoooooowwwwwwwwnnnnn. Our legs were beginning to feel like jelly, and they started responding about as well (whatever that means).

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Tired. Very tired now. We come to some ruins. This is about the time I figure out what Martin was trying to get at the whole time. Is it true that American women are loose? He was basically hypothetically asking that if he went to America, where would his best chance be for a one night stand? I gave him some pointers about joining a fraternity at a college or going to Vegas. He suggested Miami, and I told him that it seemed that he probably already knew better than me about such things.

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We hit the beach where all the tour groups were splitting off and taking these crazy boat rides along the coast, so we figured that this is where we should stop to wait for everyone else (of course Joe, Martin and I were the first ones to finnish the hike so we had nobody to definitively tell us if this was the end). Martin really wanted to swim, and so did I, only I didn't bring my swimsuit, and I wasn't about to strip down to my underwear in a country where everyone is already staring at me for just existing. Joe said he would, and as he was taking off his shirt I reminded him that he couldn't get his finger wet for another week.

Oh, did you miss that story? Well, you're just going to have to wait for me to get back to it. But the basic low down is that 2 days ago Joe sliced into his finger with a machete doing kung fu to a night stand. The hospital gave him this superglue stuff rather than stitches (b/c they were lazy), and he isn't allowed to get his finger wet now for a week. When he showered for the first time he honestly asked me if I knew how hard it was to shower with only one hand. I told "No... no, you know what, I really can't imagine what that must be like..." He caught onto my sarcasm and I could tell he secretly kicked himself for trying to say I didn't understand.

In any case, Joe put his shirt back on and sat down dejected on the sand. I told him that he could still go in and cool off, but he only wanted to go in if he could swim. Martin wasn't too happy about this when he came back from changing b/c he was only going to swim if he had someone swimming with him, but since he was already in his swim trunks he decided to go in anyways (which made me feel much less guilty about saving Joe from getting an infection his first day in a foreign country).

Then all these women with missing teeth and straw hats kept coming up to me trying to get me to buy a ride. I kept telling them "Boo, Boo!" (no, I wasn't trying to scare them off, Boo means no in Chinese.) Eventually Ivy, Jason, Angela and the others came to the beach, and Ivy jumped at the chance (I told you she was cute). It was less than $1 to ride, but I didn't think it looked all that great. I'd been on enough choppy speedboats for the time being, and they crash into the beach for their last thrill, which looked like a lot of fun, but also more dangerous than I think they let on. Joe of course, when with the group of thrill seekers, and they had a blast.

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And then it was time to finally relax and head out for food!

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From right to left: Martin Jason, Joe, Ivy, me, I can't remember her name, Angela, Boss (We didn't know this for the longest time, but unlike most everyone else in the group he didn't have an English name; so his Korean name is Pos, but everyone just called him Boss all day, so its sticking), Cathryn, then the guy with the eye glasses is ABC #1 (the wife... we'll get to that later), and the guy to his right is the ABC #2 aka Scott (and he is the husband).

I told Jason and Joe what Martin was wondering about America, and they both agreed that all he would have to do is go on a beach in his swim trunks. P.S. Please don't be mad at me Martin for posting this picture on the internet either.

Martin was very concerned that it wouldn't be appropriate if his job saw him like this. Angela said that we should send his work the pic and see if we could get him a raise. P.P.S. Please don't let her English boyfriend read that.

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(Thats warp speed... we are really hungry now).

Angela took us to this really great Sichuan place. I, being out of practice for about 6 months now, could not pick up a single thing with my chopsticks. Everyone raved about how good Joe was. Thankfully, I still got to eat b/c Angela and Joe would take things out of the boiling pot in the center of the table and put them on my plate. It was neat how they did the cooking. They had stove cut into the center of the table so that when they put the pots on top they would be at the same height as our plates. One pot was placed inside the other, the inner pot had a light yellow medium spicy soup, and the ring the outer pot made around the central one had a red hot spicy soup. Both pots were boiling, so they would put raw meat balls and veggies into the soup, let them boil, and then we would pick out of the pot and place them on our plat or in our oily eggy soup thing. Joe has raved about this night for the past month, so I think this was his favorite dinner so far. I really enjoyed it to, so you know that has to say something about the food b/c the two of us have very different ideas about what we think is good food.

And the whole night everyone was going crazy. None of us really knew each other all that well, but we had a case of the giggles or something (possible signs of exhaustion and dehydration mixed with ridiculously spicy food and beer). The one on going joke through the night (other than Joe sitting in the center of the 2 sets of boiling pots so he could eat double the portions of everyone else since there was an odd number of us), was that the 2 ABC's were married, and Scott (when he wasn't hitting on Angela) was the good and concerned husband. Scott's "wife" got really hurt on the trip after falling down and cutting his palms on some rocks, and the whole time Scott kept telling us that his friends hates stuff like this. He hates outdoorsy stuff, he hates sports, and with all of these hates, you'd think he would be one of those really smart nerdy guys, but he hates school too. He reminded us all of that wife from that terrible Nick at Night show with the dad who never gets out of his recliner. But the best part is that when we got home and told Linda about our dinner she told us that in China homosexuality is illegal. (At this point in our trip Joe is still afraid to wear his "Think, its not illegal yet" shirt, so we were really worried about how open everyone was being, like maybe we'd never see Scott and his friend again. BTW, we know now its okay to wear his Think shirt. Nobody cares.) But the point I would like to leave you all with tonight is this:

(concerning homosexuality)

Its closed mindedness like this, my friends, that leads to overpopulation.

Posted by - Rain 06:19

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Comments

Very impressive hike and story--really does show a difference between China and the US. I'd be curious to know whether doing this type of long hike is typical for young people there. Also, has the smog continued being a problem everywhere you've been? Anyway, good stories about the people.

by Sheryl S

ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, no more cliffs! (sorry Cliff)

by georgi r

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