This is the second post of our China series. Read the first one here.
I bet you want to know all about our training and I promise we’ll get to it soon. However, we experienced one unexpected adventure soon after we arrived, and I’m burning to tell you all about it.
The place where we’re training and living is located in the Wudang Mountains. It’s a hotspot for Taoism and reportedly the birthplace of Tai Chi. But apart from that it’s also a rough place. Sharp cliffs alternate with thick, wild forest. Deep valleys cross in between sharp mountain peaks. Just like the nature, also the weather is rougher than down in the flat lands. The sun can burn hard and the wind goes through all clothes. I believe you can see the toughness of the place also in the faces of the people living here. Their wrinkles are deeper, their voices coarser, and their smiles more honest compared to the city people at the base of the mountain.
We were at our Gong Fu School for only four days. Not knowing (or just about to figure out) how things work here we basically just asked around the more senior students what’s happening and then followed them around.
The weather so far had been in our favour: Mostly sunny, cloudy at times. Temperatures were hitting 20 degrees; ideal for training without too much sweat and clothes. But then there was the rumour about snowfall. We didn’t really believe it. And even if, a few snowflakes can’t do anything but improve the already beautiful scenery, right?
On Saturday it started to get a bit cooler. The first time we had to wear sweaters under our training uniforms. Sunday was classical spend-the-day-inside weather: Storm, rain, and fog so thick you could barely see the other side of the street. The idea of snow suddenly seemed less far-fetched.
Monday morning the revelation: About 20cm of the white splendour has fallen overnight. And surprise, surprise: No electricity. Probably a tree branch that fell onto a power line, overburdened by the weight of the snow.
Our morning training happened in a regular fashion, but during lunch we were told to get ready for a walk up the mountain to the “Golden Peak”. That’s all we knew, the teachers are not generous in giving out information about what exactly is going to happen.
Having no other footwear than light sneakers, we were a bit concerned, looking at the deep snow outside. The teachers assured us that sneakers were ok and we believed them.
The trip started soon after lunch. None of the students seemed too concerned, some didn’t even bring their water bottles. So we embarked on the mysterious trip in good spirits.
One hour later…
Stairs, stairs, stairs! Since we started, we’ve been doing nothing but walking on stairs. Climbing higher and higher up towards a mysterious destination. At the beginning, the treads had been cleared of the snow. That’s not the case anymore, as we’re going further away from civilisation. No tracks exist in the deep snow before us; we are the only fools to venture this far. Unsurprisingly, our shoes and socks are completely soaked by now.
The environment is both stunning and frightening. The tranquility and peace of the snow-covered forest complements the steep rocks and sheer drops along the path we’re walking on.
We’re now two hours into our hike and still, we’re climbing upwards. Meanwhile, the snow is knee-deep. Finding the steps of the stairs has become guesswork – one wrong step and it’s a steep drop to probable death. We’re not admiring the nature anymore. Our perception has shrunk to a hypnotic stare at the path in front of us while we’re putting one foot in front of the other, climbing higher and higher.
Somewhere around this point, Yee Han started to feel the first signs of vertigo and subsequent panic creeping up inside of her.
The signs along the way warning the traveller of dangerous heights are not helping. Literally they say:”Danger, the path is slippery and steep. Tourists should not continue.” And that’s without the ice.
Yee Han’s panic is intensifying. Her breath has become short and fast, her awareness one-pointed and her composure dangerously close to complete meltdown.
The question was: Give up, turn around and go down or push through and continue to go up?
Ingo suggested the former, Yee Han immediately insisted on the latter: “No. I’m going to go through this”, she said with a trembling voice. Her husband couldn’t have been more proud: “That’s my girl!”
Ingo could tell that her spirits were lighting up again when she said: “I guess you can’t call it an adventure if you don’t regret doing it at least at one point.”
After three strenuous hours we finally reached the top. We stopped at a very simple but charming eatery, run by a grumpy but equally charming lady.
With new strength and full bellies we tackled the way down to the school. Before us: a mind-boggling number of steep, ice and snow covered stairs.
We already knew the drill and a warm home was awaiting us at the end of the descend. At least that’s what we thought…
The next post is already in the pipeline. In it, we will tell you all about our everyday life and training high up in the legendary Wudang mountains and what it means to have no electricity for a week in winter conditions.