June 22nd 1984

posted in: The way back | 0

Val was very ill this morning, so violently + suddenly ill, that she was unable to make it to the bathroom (yes, that sort of ill) + had to perform her business in the washing bowl in the room.  Provided me with a bit of a rude awakening, of course, but not to worry – what must be must be.  That over, however, our attention was turned to a problem of the mind rather than body: what to do.  It had not as yet been a spectacular walk.  We had been blanketed in heavily all the way up, + had seen nothing, so had to decide whether to cut our losses.  Our options, we thought, numbered 3.  We could give it up as a bad job, + go down again, probably via a second, more scenic, route.  We could leave our bags here in the monastery, + go up to the summit as originally planned, then collect them again on our descent.  Or, learning that there was a bus service between the bottom + a car park close to the top, we could have carried our bags all the way up + bussed down.  Since we both have a stubborn streak + aren’t quitters, we rejected the first option straight away.  The last one we did give some serious consideration to, but decide ultimately that nothing had changed sufficiently to prevent us carrying out our initial choice, the second.  Certainly we had been foolish in carrying our packs up, but we could minimise the effects of that error by leaving them behind.  Whether we would return by the longer or shorter route would depend on the conditions of the weather + our bodies.

This morning at least, the weather showed no sign of improvement at all – we could only hope.  So we packed what relatively small amount of gear we wanted to take with us into the one rucksack, + after persuading the authorities in the monastery to look after the other for us – no small or easy matter – off we went.  It didn’t take any time at all for our early heady pace to slacken into a measured + steady heads-down plod.  After killing off a respectable chunk of the remaining distance, we paused for breakfast, this pause allowing Ben, Mandy + Allan to catch up with us, so we walked with them for quite a while.  It made a pleasant change to walk along with other people, + have a different conversation.  Being together so much, Val + I don’t have so much that’s new to talk about.

A little while later, we ran into James + Duane, but soon after we were able to leave them behind, + push up onwards on our own.  This was just as well.  By arriving early, we somehow managed to obtain a wonderful room, not just because of the room itself, which was clean + pleasant enough, but more because of the ante-room.  We were led along a dark + dingy corridor, but entering thro’ an ordinary door, we suddenly found ourselves in a wonderful room, a relic of another age, another culture.  We were in a small room, but one wall was entirely taken up with a door, or rather a circular hole 9 ft in diameter.  Beyond this was a light room, painted pale cream, with light streaming in thro’ the big windows on 2 sides.  The furniture matched the décor, white cane chairs + tables ranged around the walls, a perfectly delightful room.  Our bedroom, one of 4 leading off, was down in the corner.

Once we’d dropped down bags, I trotted downstairs to have a look at some Chinese guys playing table-tennis, + much as I’d expected, I was invited to have a game.  In view of the Chinese reputation at the sport, I was mildly apprehensive, so was delighted when I didn’t disgrace myself.  It was no more than a brief knock, however, after which Val + I went outside to have a look at the summit.  The sun was out, I was delighted to see – after several false attempts on the way up, the sun had finally broken thro’.  Or rather, we had managed to climb up thro’ the cloud.  The monastery was very close to the top, or one of the tops anyway.  The true summit was a few hundred yards away, but there really didn’t seem to be any pressing reason, except for the fenickety, to go over there.

It was nice wandering round the top in the sunshine.  The monastery was nothing at all, a collection of Nissan huts – a far more interesting building had been gutted by fire.  And the place was dominated by a television transmitting tower, one of the products of technology that can never look attractive (unlike power station cooling towers, for example.)  But otherwise it was remarkably pleasant + green, spacious enough to enable one to escape the hordes of Chinese taking photographs of each other against a background of cloud, cliff, or temple.  There were also large numbers of people standing on the cliff edge peering out into the clouds.  Val discovered they were looking for configurations which could somehow be construed as the Lord Buddha – frightfully good luck, it would seem, + even more so if her were somehow associated, preferably enclosed, with a rainbow.  The situation did provide us with a good opportunity to take some photos of our own, for the watchers were so engrossed, they didn’t notice us or a camera.

Looking for Buddha

Lunch was poor – monasteries on the mountain cater for vast numbers of people – + it shows.  The atmosphere was none too pleasant either – the usual debris of food spread over the tables, benches, + floors, + right outside the door was a man lying face down in a puddle of his own vomit – rather a heavy-handed piece of criticism.  During the afternoon, we sunbathed, + after a time were joined by 2 or 3 of the others, who had come up a good way behind us.  I’ll confess I felt smug + self-satisfied when I discovered they hadn’t been able to get a double room.  Chatted pleasantly enough for an hour or so, before venturing once more into the dining room – we fared no better.

Spent the evening closeted with Auntie in our room, which was a haven of peace + tranquillity amidst the chaos + confusion which reigned everywhere else in the place.  Returning from a trip to the toilet, or to buy some cake or something, one closed the door behind one with relief, + a degree of astonishment that the room could be so insulated.  It encouraged a siege mentality, however, similar, I would imagine, to having a nice flat within an appalling tower block.

After the strenuous climb, a relatively easy and relaxed day, with even some room for table tennis. And one of the joys of budget travelling is the occasional good fortune of obtaioning a room which is extra special. (And if you paid for such things all the time, there would be none of the sense of achievement. Much akin to finding a splendid coat in a charity shop.

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