Friday, May 27, 2011

Horse Trek from Hell - Part 5

Apparently having smelt the food, (impossible considering it was a black hole of flavour and situated in the middle of a room-sized chimney) another man joined us, baring a gappy and black but enthusiastic grin as he pointed to the pot. He murmured some mumbo jumbo away at us, but mainly just to himself. He was wearing a cleaners’ uniform and carried the standard-issue rubbish-grabbing-tongs found all over China (yes, even in places where you can’t breathe long enough to consider littering).

Anyway, he was happy. He was also dirty.

Not that I was in a position to judge others on hygiene at this point in time, but seriously, this guy was REALLY DIRTY. If I didn’t feel like vomiting before, I sure did now that I was stuck in a trance gazing at the muddy talons where his fingernails should have been. The irony of him being a cleaner was not lost on me, but laughing would mean passing out or throwing up, so I kept it inside.

A sigh of satisfaction reverberated through the room, signaling the cucumbers a la cucumbers had finished cooking. At this point in time, a loaf of bread keenly resembling a rock was retrieved from god-knows-where and the cleaner, in his excitement, gave his nose a good rub then ripped the bread/rock into quarters with his bare hands. Or should I say, bare crusty paws.

I was suddenly gripped by an overwhelming sensation of really, truly, just wishing I was dead.

I just felt so bloody crap in every part of my body. Altitude. My brain was so swollen is was pushing against every millimeter of my skull, trying to squish itself out from my thumping ears as if only, just now, realising it was in Alcatraz with a handful of fireworks. I would wager money that the various contents of my stomach were so filled with bacteria that they had mixed together to form an organism with a Khan-like consciousness, which was now waging war against the walls of my abdomen. My lungs were like fish in the bottom of a boat as it comes into moor who, having gasped for oxygen and flapped desperately for attention for too long, now come to an ugly blinking restlessness. Trying to cleanse itself of phlegm waves, my throat coughed until it sent itself hoarse and raspy. The blood running through my body was itchy and stung. The two legs underneath me no longer felt like my own, having been beaten with a wooden mallet only slightly softer than the one that beat my feet. Pus from my infected knee was oozing through it’s crusty broken scab and onto my pants. Making a new stain, just to the left of the dried blood on my long johns.

Altitude sickness is your body trying to turn itself inside out. Everything on the inside of you is trying to force its way to the outside of you. Almost as if you have been sucked out of the airlock and into space. You would instantly implode – your body turning completely inside out in a millisecond. Altitude sickness feels like a slow motion version of this. As though that millisecond has been lengthened by several hundred trillion, so that you can experience it for days. Altitude sickness can be lethal, and the long term side effects of survivors are serious, like cerebral edema.

Thus, there was no escape for me from this place, or this time, or these feelings. I had only the consolation that altitude sickness is a genetic disposition – and no amount of fitness or physical preparation could have prevented this visit to the land of corpses. I owe an ocean of gratitude to my friend Hanna who encouraged me to take some tea and eat some bread and cucumber, because fighting the urge to vomit for long enough to swallow rewarded me with a burst of strength a half hour later which, more than anything, saved my morale.

Also, for the record, those cucumbers were one of the tastiest things I have ever eaten in China.

So now, we are all feeling a little better with food in our bellies. Food meant I could also take some medication, and I kept it all down. Pro! So now our attention is turned to the mystery of where the hell we are, and what our ‘tickets’ paid for. Some kind of nature reserve, apparently, famous for it’s lakes. There are pictures on our tickets of lakes that look like those from Jiuzhaigou. Probably just stole actual Jiuzhaigou images though, so I don’t let myself get too excited. There must be a reason for the carpark being ENTIRELY empty. 
     ‘You ready go now?’ Our guide asks us.
     ‘Yes!’ We reply surprisingly enthusiastically.
     ‘Ok then go now.’ He says. 

So we wait for him to get the horses. We stand around for about ten minutes, still nothing. We look around, trying to find him, still nothing. We call out to him another ten minutes later, still nothing. Five minutes after that we saw him sitting in the room, unmoved, chatting to the cleaner–
     ‘Are we going to go now?’ We asked him impatiently.
     ‘What you want?’ He was confused.
     ‘To go look around the park!’ This was just silly.
     ‘So you go!’ He replied loudly.
     ‘But we need the horses!’ We reasoned.
     ‘We want the horses!’
     ‘Is path there. Horse is done.’

Ooooohhh. Hahahahah. Silly us, thinking that we would get to ride horses on a horse trek. Isn’t that a ridiculous idea! What were we thinking? Too much ‘logic’, not enough ‘China’.

So we set off on foot. In search of magical lakes. It’s a pretty long walk. Finally we find the ‘attraction’. You’ll never guess this. It’s a massive lake.

And no water.

Yeah. We just came all this way for empty lakes.

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