hiking into the clouds

A bus drive up the hill from the Yao people’s village, we came to the base of Longshen.  When I say the “base,” I mean that the road ends at the bottom of the town.  There are no actual roads to the center of Longshen - the only way to get to Longshen is to hike there.  The hike wasn’t too long, maybe 20 or 30 minutes up a paved path about a meter wide.  The constant cloud cover at our altitude and occasional showers made for wet and slippery paving stones.  Everything was coated in fresh dew and the air smelled of wet plants and earth, and later as we neared the houses and hotels, it smelled like coal fires and cooking.

For the elderly or disabled, porters can be hired who will take you to the top in a cart reminiscent of the kind that the Emperors were once carried in (photo above: an elderly woman is carried up the Longshen trail by her porters).

The town was decorated with bright red lanterns and red bows providing a flash of color to the otherwise drab scheme produced by the low and dense clouds.  Besides our tour group of about a dozen and a half, we only saw one other tour group that day.  Surely the colder weather and cloudy mountains were an indication that this is low season.

Everywhere we went, we saw corn hanging and drying.  Erica told me that they dry some of the corn for use during the non-growing months.  It is also used for pig feed and we saw quite a few pig pens; it seemed that every extended family had an enclosed pig pen and these mammoth beasts grunted and snarled as we walked by.  I would think that some of them surely weighed 200+ kilos (400 or more pounds).

As we neared the higher elevations in Longshen, we could see the top of the town and the apartments, houses, and hotels that were stacked one upon the other all along the sides of the hills.  I can imagine that in the middle of the summer each of these hotels would be filled to capacity and the trails crawling with tourists.

In addition to the pigs, as we passed the homes and businesses of the locals, we saw ducks, chickens, dogs, squirrels, birds, cows, and all sorts of other domestic animals and pets.

It seemed that some of the corn that was out for drying was decorated and I wonder if it served as some sort of sacrifice or offering?

When I finally arrived at my hotel, I read this sign and wondered about it.  When I got upstairs to my room and saw that the entire hotel was made of wood, I then understood the prohibition against open flame.  If this hotel caught fire, it would be a death trap.  There were no sprinklers, no fire escape, and my window was a 3 story drop to the edge of a brick wall.  I tried to formulate an escape plan and it consisted of scaling the roof around to the other side and jumping to the adjoining hotel.  I just hoped that the flames, if there were any, were going the other direction.

The entire hotel, even the support beams and columns were made of wood:

My room was comfortable and clean and was only about ten bucks per night.  It had a wonderful view, if, and only if, the clouds would part way and let the view show.

Looking out my left window I could see the trail that we walked up to get here.  Longshen is perched on the side of a hill and the buildings are stacked to maximize space.  As you can see, the visibility left a lot to be desired; I was beginning to wonder if the Longshen Rice Terraces would be visible in this cloudy soup.

Looking out my right window down into the valley, I could just barely make out some of the rice terraces.  Every few minutes, the clouds would open for a moment, provide a glimpse of the spectacular view and by the time the camera came out, the view was choked off by the clouds…


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