[map=1074430 lat= lon= zoom=]I wanted to do the ancient postal road hike from Guankeng to Lijiao this weekend, but I wasn't sure when. If I went on Saturday, it might get dark, but if I went on Sunday morning, it would be raining. All the way to the trailhead, I was worrying. Would I get there too late to do it today or not? As the mini bus rounded yet another hairpin turn around yet another mountainside, I worried more. Finally, I made a bargain with myself. if we arrived before 3 p.m., I was going to attempt the trek to Lijiao before sunset, if not, I'd stay in Guankeng.
We arrived in Guankeng at 2:40 p.m. I guessed I was doing this thing that night. The trail was a medium challenge, so I cinched my lumpy, untechnologically sound backpack tighter onto my shoulders and headed up the stairs. The way up was gentle, alternating between very shallow stairs with flat grassland and humble gardens.
Hiking by myself always makes my mind wander into strange territories, imagining all the worst case scenarios like falling off a cliff while taking a pee, or being followed by petty thieves, raped and robbed in the twilight. I remembered every single hiker story that ended in tragedy. It seems my brain has an endless capacity for retaining these narratives for moments just like these.
In between enjoying the sound of the fall leaves crunching under my feet, and the birds chirping as they went to bed, I kept one ear open for murderers watching me from the bushes. There were none of course, only a few foresters chopping down a few trees, hoisting their harvest on their shoulders, portaging their bounty downwards on the gruelling descent home. The farmers smiled and waved, toothlessly pointing straight up, laughing at a single woman trekking alone... or were they signalling to their gangster friend to attack me at the top? I couldn't decide.
Finally, I made it to the summit, and as I inched down, I could tell the sun would set in about an hour. It took at least that long to carefully pick my way in between the broken rocks that served as stairs. I tried to imagine what it would be like to be a postman, making this agonisingly delicate commute every day, delivering the vauable mail to waiting villagers. Those stairs went straight down, with no flat stretches at alll. I was glad I had started in Guankeng and not Lijiao.
Just as the sun disappeared behind the hills, I found myself in the town.
I saw a group of artists and some of them spoke English. They got me a room at their hotel, but I was given a peasant's meal for dinner, and not allowed the luxurious seafood chowder and roasted pumpkin the rest of the group got. I sat at a table alone with my egg/tomato, corn on the cob and cabbage. I tried not to take it personally. I was just glad I had found a room, and these kind people had offered to drive me back to Wuyuan in the morning on top of that.
Breakfast was at 7 a.m. and a nice couple from Shanghai drove me back to Wuyuan. It was so kind of them that I didn't mention that it was way too early for my regular 2 p.m. bus home.
I shut my mouth and said thank you, and wandered around Wuyuan again. I met a nice elementary school teacher and we happened upon some singles day sales. I got a new wallet and she bought me some Chinese books for children that I was looking at. Hilarious.
My new friend also brought me to her beautiful home. She cooked lunch for me and her family. She even convinced her husband to drive me back to the bus station. It was another really great weekend in Wuyuan county.