the hills are alive

we arrived in guilin at 2:30 am, the city still sleeping deeply, the sky pitch black, and only the crickets and mosquitoes to keep us company as we waited for it to be daytime.

i haven’t been awake at that time in a long while. it was muggy, and the air was thick and clinging. we were exhausted from the long journey, and we had to wait until the buses to yangshuo started running. giddiness in the empty car park, as the sun slowly pulled itself over the horizon. and at 7 am, fireworks. revelie for the military base nearby, sparkling brightly in the dawn clouds.

we finally find the bus to yangshuo, through sheer luck and lots of persistence by a strange chinese man who was able to convey that we were waiting in the wrong place. i’m drowsy and sweaty, yet still stunned by the scenery around me. it’s breathtaking, and i’m excited to be able to explore it soon.

first, we sleep. cool shower and clean cool sheets. we wake for a late dinner, ravenously hungry. sweet and sour pork and a big bottle of local beer. as we drift off to bed, we plan that tomorrow we’ll hire bicycles and head for the hills.

awakening this morning, subconsciously aware of the curtains of rain coming down outside, and allow ourselves to drift off again for another few hours. later, still pouring hard, we roll up our pant legs, put on flip flops, and head off for breakfast. we draw it out as long as possible, hoping the sky will clear, and finally after noon, it does.

we hope we’re heading in the direction of moon hill, about 10 km away, and the highest point around, but as we wend our way further, it becomes clear we are not. still, it’s an incredible ride and we’er hardly complaining – our dirt path taking us through small villages of spectacular beauty. thousands of tiny froglings sprinkling the road, the river widening and rushing past, then narrowing peacfully again. villagers chanting in buddhist prayer, leading their cows home, harvesting their crops. intimate scenes which felt like we were intruding, but we kept pedaling on. the views growing more dramatic with each bend of the road. scattered lives set against scenery from a movie.

as our time in china comes closer to the end, i can’t help but think that what i’ve experienced has been just like everything i’ve ever seen or read about it, but even more so. no movie or photo can capture this. it’s like the difference between looking at a replica of a masterpiece through a dusty glass, versus being *inside* the masterpiece.

and today we were priviledged to be inside.

One Response to “the hills are alive”

  1. daddio
    May 11th, 2006 02:25

    I’ve been waiting, every day looking for you next adventure. My wait has been rewarded. Damn, you are such a good writer, I can feel what it is like to be there. Good job Grasshopper!
    Love, your teacher and tyrant who kept making you do the re-writes.

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