Tuesday, October 14, 2008

attempts to be brief must inevitably fail

Day 2: another day at the national park.
after successfully finding the right bus with relative ease, then spending half of the ride trying to get through the worst traffic flow pattern i have ever seen, we arrived, yet again, at the national park. after quickly buying ponchos in preparation for the impending rain, we headed off in search of a more scenic trail. despite the worthless map, we managed to find exactly what we were looking for.

we got the forest all to ourselves. we actually found a trail with no people. none. i don't think i can express how unheard of that is in this country. anyway, it was a nice stone path with plenty of stairs, but at a more gradual incline. and, despite the fog, the scenery was beautiful as well. we kept coming across random wooden buildings that were maybe kind of old, but probably not as old as they were trying to be. and the smell. oh, the beautiful beautiful scent of unadulterated nature.

after a bit of hiking and several adjustments to the ponchos, we stumbled upon a beautiful clearing essentially on the side of a cliff. there was a hollowed out rockface on one side, which made a very nice shelter from the rain, and a decent drop-off on the other. we were resting and refueling on the rocks when we noticed the footprints. lots and lots of stone shoeprints. no one really knows why, but there was a large circle full of different-sized ones in the clearing and a path of them leading back into the woods, along the stone trail. so of course we followed them. and we were not led astray.

about a half hour later we trudged out of the woods as the last of the footprints faded to find another clearing, this one with a large cabin. it turned out to be a restaurant/hotel full of locals chilling out, getting drunk and playing cards in the middle of the afternoon. we sat down for some tea and ended up ordering an entire meal, despite everyone's claim to not be very hungry. but man was it worth it. fresh fresh veggies and good rice. not to mention great company. we barely sat down before kaitlin went over to the other table of locals to see what they were eating and try to say hello. they gave her a glass of what she thought would be tea but turned out to be local chinese white wine, aka whiskey. a great addition to any hike.

i was also a fan of our method for ordering. after some confusion, one of the men finally went into the kitchen and came back with a random assortment of vegetables and an egg. he would hold up the veggies and we would tell him yes or no, which was actually a very effective way of going about it. we knew exactly what they had and they knew exactly what we liked.

after we ate, they took some pictures with us and asked us to leave our mark by signing a big sheet of white paper to be hung on the wall with the messages from other travellers that had passed through.

full and happy again, we decided to continue the trek up the mountain in search of a village which may or may not exist. we never managed to find it. instead we found a lot of steps, a very foggy view and a great metal bridge where we discovered that many in our party are a bit scared of heights. i'm glad we brought them to a mountain.

after an equally beautiful trek back down the mountain and a less enjoyable bus ride, we opted for dinner in the green tent, per jenny's request. the green tent is exactly that. one of those tents without sides that you can rent for outdoor festivals, fitted with 6 tables, 4 light bulbs, 5 gas lines, a grill and a beer cooler, all perched happily atop a pile of rubble. here, the food available for consumption was laid out beautifully on a table and we could smile and point at what we wanted. then they would either cook it on the grill or on a hot plate in the center of your table. it turned out to be awesome food and it was fun to watch as the entire family helped to run the place.

we also hit up the noodle man whose cart was parked next door. his was a similar operation. you point at the veggies/meat you want in your noodles and he cooks it all in a wok right there. so good. this was my favorite meal of the trip and possibly my favorite place as well. good food, good atmosphere, good people, what more could you ask for?

needless to say, day 2 was a much happier day than day 1. i think it was about this point that we started saying "today is my favorite day!" which might be true, except that we would say that every day until we left.

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