The other three people at the mushroom farm were Andreu, who is Catalonian (Catalonia is an autonomous community in Spain), and a Belgian couple, Analese and Klaas. The Belgians were traveling all throughout Asia, and possibly New Zealand for nine months. Andreu was traveling around the world, going across Europe, Russia, Mongolia, China, Thailand, Indonesia, and South America.
Andreu was 22 years old, Analese 23, and Klaas 24. And me? I was 27. All of them were traveling on a tight budget and would camp when they didn’t have a place they can stay for free. Hua Shan was no exception. Hua Shan is one of five sacred mountains in China.
Due to the injuries I sustained from my cycling trip, I was in no condition to carry the additional weight that comes with camping gear. Although it would cost money, I was planning on staying at a hostel in my visit to Hua Shan. The others insisted that I instead go along with them. I came to work on my host’s farm, and the first day she treated me like royalty. For me to leave for a side trip the following day after receiving such hospitality just felt wrong. However, the host assured me that it’s ok and that it’ll probably be more fun if I went with them rather than alone. Problem was, I had no sleeping bag or pad. Andreu helped to make a makeshift pad from cardboard and with the permission of the host, I took a thick blanket. And we were off for Hua Shan! We stocked up on all the food and water from our town in the outskirts of Xi’an because it was dirt cheap (one large dumpling for 1¥, which is about 15 cents).
It was a one hour bus ride to the train station, 2.5 hour train ride, and a 20 minute bus ride to the entrance of Hua Shan. We were lost for about 30 minutes when we arrived and had difficulty getting directions from anyone because nobody spoke English. I took the cable car up the mountain to save my left knee, which still was in the recovery process. I felt a sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) from the others who were hiking up. I would have much rather gone up with them, but I still didn’t know where I stood in my ability and I had plenty of hiking waiting for me the next day anyways. I took a scenic 20 minute bus ride to the cable car and it was a beautiful 10 minute ride up the mountain via cable car.
Since the others were hiking up the mountain, I had time to kill. I just wandered around a bit and people watched. The others were taking longer than expected and I began to wonder if I would have to resort to sleeping on a bench with my blanket. When they arrived, we pitched our tents, set up camp, and had cup noodles, biscuits, and Chinese vodka. We picked the cheapest bottle, which had an alcohol content of 50%. It tasted terrible. For me, it was mostly because it was so thick and syrupy in consistency. We called it an early night since we had to hike from where we were (North Peak) to the East Peak before sunrise.
With my cardboard laid out, the blanket folded vertically, I slipped in between the blanket, wearing all the clothes I brought. I even kept my boots on to keep my feet warm. Middle of November, sleeping on a piece of cardboard and a blanket with zero insulation may equal to a miserable night of rest with a full day’s hike waiting for me the next day.