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Tuesday, March 28, 2006

The endless climb

Between the glare of the sun, dust, and cigarette smoke my contacts were screaming at me by the time we returned to our boat, so I moved to my glasses. Mistake. We were to experience the crescendo of our day on the Yanghze that evening and little did I know how much I would pine for my contacts.

After having a "late lunch" at 4:30—yes we paid extra—Michael came to collect us at 6:00 to see an ancient temple at White King City. Applying our new strategy for disembarking by purposefully being slow and getting at the back of the lemming brigade, we left the ship, walked the gang plank and saw 300 stairs awaiting us. Now, these weren't ordinary stairs. Marilyn said previously experience them and said there had been more to climb in October, but since the Yangtze had swallowed the ones lower down, we were just facing 300 ancient stone steps. What this means is my Western sized foot is nearly as big as each stair and sometimes bigger. And, it's the steepest staircase I've ever seen or climbed.

Michael bounded up the stairs. Marilyn and I trundled behind like little old ladies huffing and puffing and sweating like pigs. As we climbed I thought, uh oh, with all the lemmings pushing us upward this will be total hell when we return in the dark, since I didn't expect them to be lighted. (I was right)

We reached the top of the hill and unlike the Rocky movie, we had no energy to rejoice. Next, we walked through more shops with enthusiastic proprietors and boarded a bus to go up the hill towards the temple. Marilyn questioned Michael about this. She knew from experience the bus she had ridden on prior trips deposited her at the door. But, no, this time we would be plopped at the bottom of yet another staircase climb of 150-200 more steep stairs....and very proactive vendors.

The lemmings took to the stairs and I nearly toppled several times as did Marilyn. Needless to say that by the time we stood at the top—after having Marilyn snap my photo below a 153.5 meter sign that would disappear under the waters of the Yangtze by September 2006—I wasn't in the best of spirits. I did, however, consider the just rewards of the stairs being permanently swallowed by the Yangtze. All I could think about was my return trip down nearly 500 stairs in the dark with my glasses on and my sense of balance compromised.

Michael kicked into tour guide mode and began the history of the temple. I told the two of them I would sit and recover from my experience. After 20 minutes I heard the boat give its warning blast. I knew I had to get down the stairs before the big rush started, because that was all I needed to topple down the stone stairs in the dark. So, I headed back figuring we'd all meet back at the boat.

We did. Marilyn I believe knew I'd make it back by myself, but Michael was frantic. When I finally crossed the threshold of our boat, I tried to tell the front desk my name, since I knew Michael had to say we were all there before we took off. Alas, no one spoke English, so I just stayed in the smoke filled room and waited. In about 15 minutes Marilyn arrived and she called Michael on his cell phone.

That evening done, we went to our room and removed sweat soaked clothing. I had an ominous feeling...this is exactly what happens when I get a cold. Sure enough, that's what happened.


At 6:54 AM, Lorraine said...

This obviously was not the China Regal tour on the Princess Jeannie that Bob and I took in October. Ah, but like I mentioned to you early, how fortunate to have a "real" experience instead of the ordinary tourist tour.

At 9:05 AM, Skip said...

Reminds me of my Days Piking on the Yukon. Skip and Yukon Ike


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