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Monologues of Wild Ambition

How to Reflect in the Dust

CHINA | Sunday, 3 May 2015 | Views [119] | Scholarship Entry

In the dry and dusty heat, I hobble to the top of the road, to the T-junction that runs through the village. My rucksac's got my back arched, and I sway with the gait of a lame donkey as I try to avoid the blisters on my toes as I wait for my bus.
After endless re-touched temples, clay pots from every dynasty in the last 3,000 years and the same selection of insects on sticks in every province, Yunnan has been like another world (it comes to something when you're so desensitised to a culture that you complain about the lack of variety of insects on sticks, but there it is.) Having lived in China for two years, it was the blue skies of Yunnan that I'd longed to see. I'd split up with my friends and headed, alone, in search of the mountains and lakes and old world of Goullart's Forgotten Kingdom.
Yesterday I finished walking the majestic Tiger Leaping Gorge, one of the deepest canyons in the world. From the swirling rapids at the bottom to the rugged grey peaks that disappeared between the clouds, the beauty of this place is worthy of only the grandest cliches, which I'll spare you for now. I'd be lying if I said I was particularly fit, but after a middle-aged couple online had described the trek as a “beginner's walk” I was feeling quietly confident that my bi-monthly yoga DVD sessions would have me racing around that canyon. I wasn't prepared for the hairpin bends, the vertical cliff faces, the horse-owners who follow you all the way to the rocky, sweaty summit in the baking heat, mimicking your heavy breathing and indicating that there ain't no air-ambulances if things turn sour. But, much like the pain of childbirth I'm sure, all that's forgotten as soon as it's over. It was incredible, and now with just the blisters on my toes and the giddy feeling of victory in my mind, I stand in the baking mid-morning sun waiting for the bus.
Last night's hostel owner kindly arranged for the bus from Shangri-La to Dali to pick me up on the way. Now, I look hopefully at the driver of each coach that passes, hoping one of them is on the lookout for a foreigner standing by the side of the road. After a few false starts of trying to board random buses as they pulled over to let oncoming traffic through, I hear it - “Ni hao, waiguoren!” - “hello foreigner!”. It's amazing how quickly you learn to trust in the basic goodness in people, I think, as the driver wedges my bag between him and his gear stick and I climb into the smokey, rickety mini-van full of strangers.

Tags: 2015 Writing Scholarship

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