Today was a mixed bag. Actually, it was a half and half bag.  For as amazingly beautiful as the first part of the day was,  the second part sucked in equal measure. We left our hotel at 3:30 in the morning and at 6:00 we started looking for a place to get some breakfast. As we were making our way down the street,  a man stopped us and offered us two cups of hot tea. Now I ask you, who does that? Who sees two backpackers and thinks, “I bet they’d like some hot tea.”  We accepted his offer and gave him one of our cards and continued on our way.

We soon found a noodle place and enjoyed a very nice breakfast among a group of smiling happy women. As we were leaving, we saw them preparing a dish we had seen and eaten before. I had no idea how it was made so we stopped to watch and I shot video as they were cooking the dish and before we could say no, they gave us a serving. It was savory with a squishy texture and I still don’t know how to ask for it by name which is a shame because it is delicious.

By 6:30 we were back on the road which had now narrowed to a single paved lane that meandered through lychee, banana and mango groves. We passed little pig farms here and there and even though we had caused  every dog we passed to bark, somehow the sows and piglets slept soundly as we passed.  We counted at least twenty pink piglets laying beside one massive momma pig.

Further up the road we saw a sign beside the road and Google translate told us it was a Buddhist temple. It was a couple kilometers out of our way but we didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity so we veered to the right and a few kilometers later, there it was on our left across a little bridge. They were up on a hillside and had the most beautiful views of the valley below that was dotted with little ponds. We were given bottles of water, offered food and escorted into the temple. The monk put on his robes and handed us lit sticks of  incense and Doug and I walked to all four of the shrines, offered our incense and said little prayers. They even gave Doug a small Buddha figurine.

We left the temple and a few hours later, we were entering a town. We had walked about thirteen miles and my blisters were telling me that we needed to make it a short day. We went to the town’s only hotel and the guy running it flat out refused us. He had a very stern, unyielding and unfriendly expression on his face. We  enlisted the help of our Mandarin speaking friend and she tried to straighten things out with him. He told her that the hotel was full but it was obvious to us that it was completely empty and that he simply did not want us there. We experienced this a few times last year as well and it’s something that we still don’t quite understand. Last summer it was only inconvenient as there were always other hotels nearby. But what do you do when that’s the only hotel in town? We tried talking to the guy’s son but it only seemed to annoy father more and when I saw dad get on his motor scooter, shoot us a dirty look and mutter something under his breath, I got the feeling that he was headed off to get the police so Doug and I jumped on the first  bus we saw that was headed out of town.
It started to rain and then come down in sheets and out the windows of the bus I could see those beautiful limestone outcroppings that we were planning to walk past. I didn’t even get one picture of them.
We got off the bus thirty-five  kilometers later in the next town. We walked into the first hotel we saw and we’re greeted by the entire four member family with “HELLO HELLO!” and the biggest smiles and laughter. They are so kind and helpful. Again, I guess we are where we are supposed to be but we had to cut 35k out of our walk and I was so looking foward to this section of the 324.

Sunrise walk

Sunrise walk

rps20160703_061241Grave
A modest temple

A modest temple

Dr. Vincent shared this story with us today. I think it’s worth passing along. W

A man died…
When he realized it, he saw God coming closer with a suitcase in his hand.

Dialog between God and Dead Man:

God: Alright son, it’s time to go

Man: So soon? I had a lot of plans…

God: I am sorry but, it’s time to go

Man: What do you have in that suitcase?

God: Your belongings

Man: My belongings? You mean my things… Clothes… money…

God: Those things were never yours, they belong to the Earth

Man: Is it my memories?

God: No. They belong to Time

Man: Is it my talent?

God: No. They belong to Circumstance

Man: Is it my friends and family?

God: No son. They belong to the Path you travelled
Man: Is it my wife and children?

God: No. they belong to your Heart

Man: Then it must be my body

God: No No… It belongs to Dust

Man: Then surely it must be my Soul!

God: You are sadly mistaken son. Your Soul belongs to me.

Man with tears in his eyes and full of fear took the suitcase from the God’s hand and opened it…

EMPTY!!

With heartbroken and tears down his cheek he asks God…

Man: I never owned anything?

God: That’s Right. You never owned anything.

Man: Then? What was mine?

God: your MOMENTS. Every moment you lived was yours.

Life is just a Moment.

LIVE IT.
LOVE IT.
ENJOY IT.

Parlor Tricks

We met this little cutie at a restaurant today. Her uncle dropped in to buy some cigarettes and had her show off for us a little. He handed her a one kuai note and she waved her hand back and forth in front of it dismissively. He handed her two kuai and she did it again. He handed her a crisp red hundred kuai note and she snatched it up! rps20160701_172714

Today Doug had a good look at our map and it became clear that we could take an alternate route for 45 miles or so and get off of highway 324. However, it wasn’t clear if the alternate route would have hotels  and restaurants or at least stores where we could buy food and water. We decided that the only way we would know for sure would be to get into a car and drive the route so we hired a taxi and went to see for ourselves.  We were immediately sold on the idea. The route was down an utterly charming, almost completely level, shady, tree lined, winding country road and did I mention SHADE! We loved it. There was only one area where we questioned if we would be able to find a hotel but we were so in love with the route that we decided we were willing to sleep outdoors if needed. We didn’t bring a tent this time, just a tarp and a rain poncho that would be wide enough to cover both of us if we slept up against each other. We were so excited to walk this route. It’s just the kind of adventure we like.

On our way back to our hotel, we asked the taxi driver to take the 324, the route we were initially planning to walk. Within the first few miles, all thoughts of walking the country road were abandoned. The 324, while not even close to being level,has the most visually stunning landscape I think we have yet seen in China. Beautiful limestone (?) outcroppings rise up out of nowhere and are covered with lush vegetation. We even saw a couple of caves way high up the nearly completely vertical sides. The place feel magical.  This is where dragons live. I’m a bit disappointed that we can’t walk them both but we have limited time and I have limited energy. At least we got to see the other route.
I will post pictures tomorrow or the next day of the path taken.

Toddler Tears

rps20160701_065231Doug and I stopped for a little dinner and after we finished eating,the waitress pulled out her camera and then put her four-year-old daughter in Doug’s lap. We know from experience that this scenario never ends well. The poor child was instantly reduced to tears. We want to be polite and accommodating but seriously, it’d be traumatic to be plopped down in any stranger’s lap let alone a strange looking foreigner’s.

rps20160630_150900The weather thankfully has cooled down. Today the “Real Feel” is only 103 which is very walkable and much more enjoyable. We may readjust our morning starting time and go back to a 4:00 am start if this weather keeps up. We miss so much of the scenery when we are walking in the middle of the night.
Once again, we have been the recipients of thoughtful generosity in the form of  bottles of water, slices of cool watermelon, snack foods or just as gratefully received, thumbs up and big grins all from passing motorists.

Both Doug and I have some blisters but are otherwise well. So many memories from last year are coming back to us. Even some of the language.  Things I wouldn’t have remembered how to say three weeks ago come rolling off my tongue now. Context and environment are everything when learning a language.

I forgot the challenges I faced last summer when trying to get vegetarian meals. Ever vigilant, I saved Doug from eating dog meat yesterday afternoon. He says he would have remembered to ask anyways but who knows.

Dinner With Friends

Yesterday Doug and I tried to check into a hotel and when we walked into the establishment and inquired about a room, we were told that it was not a hotel. We left and walked to the corner where we were greeted by a group of enthusiastic and very friendly men. We asked them if there was a hotel nearby and were directed back to the place we had just left. Further up and across the street we made another inquiry and this man kindly escorted us back to the same very place. In the past when we’ve been turned away from hotels it has usually although not always been because they weren’t licensed to rent to westerners. However, this time it was simply because they didn’t want us. I think it’s a good experience to know what it feels like to be mistrusted or rejected for no logical or as far as I can see valid reason.

Off we went down the road and about ten kilometers later, we found a hotel that was happy to have us and we checked in without any problems. After a little rest we went down the road to get some dinner and were greeted by a group of enthusiastic half in the bag men who helped us drink our beers. One of the men even read our palms although we have no idea what he was saying. I’m not happy that the first hotel rejected us but I’m going to look at if this way- we wound up in the better place. I’m sure Hippolyte had his share of doors shut in his face. I think this experience brings me closer to him. Anyways,these were our drinking buds. rps20160630_154037

On The Road

We were up at 3:30 this morning and on the road by 4:15. We started right out in front of the hotel I hurt my foot at last year. As we were walking,  we could hear frogs croaking from the creek or canal that ran beside the road and by the time they quieted down, the bats started heading home and then the sun came up from behind the mountains.
We ate lychee as we walked and stopped for a real breakfast at 7:00. I was feeling pretty cocky that we had gotten 7.5 miles in before breakfast. By 9:00, it was blazing hot. The weather app on my phone said that it was 89 degree but that the “real feel” was 109. Tomorrow morning we are getting up at 2:30 and will start walking at 3:00 and hope to be back in a hotel before 10:00 am. It’s simply too hot to be outdoors.
We met some very nice student drivers who pulled over and gave us bottles of water and cans of Redbull. We took several photos and were on our way. Despite the heat, we are so happy to be back here among some of the kindest people in the world.

Our last night in Beiliu we had dinner with Dr. Vincent, his wife Hong and his son. Last year his son seemed very shy but this year, he was able to speak to us in English. He has even taken the  English name Steve. Hong asked if I would give her an English name. I looked at her and tried to figure out which name suited her best. She is very pretty and elegantly dressed yet I sense that she is a force to be reckoned with. She’s a strong woman too.
I asked Dr. Vincent if her name “Hong” meant something in Mandarin and he told me that it meant “red”. Doug suggested Rose and I suggested Ruby. We used our phones to show her pictures of both the flower and the precious stone. Hong picked Ruby and I think it’s a fitting name.
Dr. Vincent gave Doug and I gifts.  He gave Doug a beaded rosewood necklace and he gave me a beaded  cedar necklace. It smells so good. We love our gifts. Thank you Dr. Vincent, Ruby and Steve.20160626_211817

Back In Beiliu!

We are back in Beiliu! We flew to Hong Kong on June 23rd and arrived on the 24th. We had planned to stay at the airport hotel but some sort of convention or event caused  room rates to skyrocket. Because we didn’t want to pay $500 a night at the Regal, we found ourselves in a district called Lantau and we both loved it there. Our hotel was right across the street from the Silver River. The next morning we had breakfast at a huge outdoor restaurant that was right in front of our hotel. Everybody there was at least 85 years old so we are thinking that maybe there is some sort of retirement village nearby.
 After breakfast, we took a cab back to the airport and we got to see everything we missed during the dark drive the night before. Neither of us realized how lush and rural a good portion of Hong Kong still is. We aren’t completely sure but we think that Lantau is only 5 miles from the airport but they are separated by a small mountain so it’s a 30 minute winding drive but well worth it.
Yesterday afternnon we flew into Nanning and Dr. Vincent and his friend came and picked us up at the airport.  It was a 6 hour round trip drive for them. It was a lovely drive for us and the landscape looked so beautiful and familiar.
This morning we called on Dr. Vincent  again to help us get Chinese SIM cards for our phones.  It was easy enough to do last year but this year we had some problems but he got it all straightened out.
We are staying one more night here in Beiliu and tonight we are having dinner with Dr. Vincent, his wife and son.  We can’t begin to thank him enough for all of his help. We have some gifts for them that we hope they will like.
Tomorrow morning we start walking. It’s crazy hot and humid here so we will be getting an early start. We should be on the road by 4:00 am and by 1:00pm we will be 17 miles closer to Hong Kong.