After a few days relaxing in Chengdu (part one), we headed two hours South to the town of Emeishan, home to UNESCO world heritage site, Mount Emei. The tallest of China's four sacred Buddhist mountains.
This was our second climb of the trip. After my struggle up Mount Fuji, I hoped that I would be in somewhat better shape for this two day excursion.
Having been warned about some vicious monkeys who reside on this mountain, we armed ourselves with bamboo sticks, nourishment and lots of water, before taking off from our base - The Teddy Bear Hotel.
The start of this climb was remarkably pleasant. This part of the ascent is relatively flat, and there is an abundance of interesting monuments and stunning natural scenery to look at. In what felt like no time at all, we found ourselves at our first designated milestone - the QingYin pavilion. I think this is an optional starting point, as there was a fairly huge crowd of people here. Prior to this we had met very few people.
The popularity of this spot is quite likely due to its proximity to the 'monkey path', where the majority of Emei's indigenous Tibetan Monkey's can be found. It is supposedly something of a rite of passage for Chinese tourists to spend time here. As a result of years of relentless teasing, these monkeys are in no way afraid of humans, and are actually quite vicious. Astoundingly, this in no way seems to deter tourists from continually teasing them. We tried to pass through as quickly as we could, however we eventually had to go up an unavoidable flight of stairs heavily guarded by the monkeys. Here, one of the bigger monkeys alarmingly disarmed Ben and I of our bamboo sticks, meaning we only had one left between the three of us.
From here, the hike became increasingly difficult. There are A LOT of stairs to deal with going up Mount Emei. However, we left the crowds behind and continued in relative peace. We did have one more monkey incident though, we turned a corner and saw the little bugger at the top of the stairs. It proceeded to charge down the stairs where it launched itself at my leg. It tried to climb up, but Ben and Jamie scared it off with our one remaining weapon. Later we stopped at a little hut selling bamboo sticks, we stocked up again. Safety in numbers..
After a long slog up many, many more stairs, we finally reached our chosen halfway house for the night, just after night fell. To enter the monastery we walked past a Buddha shrouded in a reddish glow and into what felt like a particularly eerie horror movie. We went down long, dark corridors and past numerous ominous doorways until we eventually came to our own room. The room itself was a homely, mismatched affair, complete with electric blankets. We locked ourselves into our room and warmed our aching limbs.
The following day started with a questionable breakfast (some kind of egg congee) and a welcoming downwards ascent. It wasn't long before we were heading upwards again, however now we were above Emei's lower peaks, so we had some pretty incredible views to look out to.
Just after midday, we reached the golden summit. Despite protests from our aching legs, we walked the whole way to the top, resisting the tempting cable car which could have carried us up the last bit. Even though it was quite an overcast day, the 'sea of clouds' effect in contrast with the towering golden Buddha was really something to behold.