Taishan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was the first mountain I ever climbed. I was ill-equipped and clearly didn’t do enough planning. There are 7,200 steps to the top. The more I climbed, the more clothes I peeled off. I’d look up every few yards to see if I was any closer to the summit. It was never as close as I thought. Eventually, the sky darkened and I was still no where near the top.
When I finally made it to the peak with my legs on fire, I caught the last few glimpses of daylight. Looking down from the highest tip of the mountain, I thought to myself, “…this pain was worth it”. The view was exactly like those watercolor paintings you see in the Asian wing of The Metropolitan Museum or any art museum for that matter. Legend says that if climb you Taishan, you’ll live up to 100 years old.
Make sure you bring a flashlight and give yourself plenty of time to get back down the mountain. Descending Taishan was a trip in itself. It took me four hours to get to the top, but I only had 30 minutes to make the 2-hour trek down to the middle of the mountain to get the last bus back to town. On top of that, there was nothing to guide the way. No lamps. No lights. No nothing. But of course there were plenty of shops lined along the mountain path selling flashlights at unusually high prices.
I chose to improvise. I made my way down using the light in my phone. Now, it wasn’t a matter of time. It was a matter of how long before the battery in my phone would die. It didn’t help that I was gasping for air. It didn’t help that my calves were cramping up. And it certainly didn’t help that others making it down the mountain hovered over me like flies to honey. It didn’t occur to them that their phones had a flashlight in it too.
I made it to the bus with seconds to spare and rewarded myself by stuffing my face at the first fancy-ish restaurant I saw.