We almost went to Changsha for New Year’s Eve but decided to stay in Hengyang for a chill party with a few Chinese students, Deeping, Ivy, Emily, and Zerlinda. We played Monopoly for 3 hours hahaha and they loved it.

On New Year’ Day some of my students from class 7 invited me to eat steak for lunch at a nice restaurant on Jiefang. Steak here is different than steak in America, but it’s still very good. Afterwards we walked around and went window shopping, and it was so fun to have them try on coats and hats and be silly with them. We also went to a really cool arcade I didn’t know Hengyang had – there were all kinds of arcade games and a Dance Dance Revolution game that this Chinese guy was killing it at.

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My students Doris, Firsnow, and Amy

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I left them around 2pm to get ready for the evening. My friend Mervin invited me to climb Heng Shen with him! Heng Shen (or Mount Heng – Shen means mountain in Chinese) is one of the 5 sacred mountains in China and it represents balance in the south. It is the most famous thing about Hengyang I think, and I’ve been wanting to climb it for a long time.

The mountain is technically in Nanyue, so we took a taxi from the Chaunshan bus station for 40 minutes until we reaches the visitor center. Mervin also invited two of his classmates, a girl named Gina I had met before, and another girl named Nuenue (or Naynay, or Noonoo, I cannot remember) From there we had a quick 10 minute walk uphill to the ticket counter. The tickets are normally 80 RMB, but with a student ID it’s just 40. (I asked Mervin to show them my Harding ID and I totally got a discount too.)

At 6:45 we officially started the hike.

It was brutal, not gonna lie. I was thinking, I’ve climbed mountains in Colorado, this will be much easier. It wasn’t. It was totally dark, but I brought my head lamp from home which helped a lot. The hike just follows the road up the mountain, but it is steep. There were a lot of switch backs that were awful and making time was slow.

So you don’t actually have to hike up the entire mountain. There are buses you can take up to the South Gate Heaven for 45 RMB, or a cable car that is a little more expensive (80 RMB I think). I think Mervin wanted to hike it though, as did many others that night.

At 8:14 Nuenue saw a driver coming up beside us and asked to hitch a ride with him a little ways. Other drivers asked for 100 RMB (too much), but this guy asked just 20RMB since he was on his way home. He drove us 10 minutes up before he needed to turn, and he ended up not charging us and let us go for free. That 10 minutes in a car saved us so much time though.

It took us one more hour after that to reach the South Gate Heaven, the campsite where people rest before going to the top in the early morning. It was so cold. Hiking in the cold is rough because I was so hot and sweaty while we were moving, but once we stopped and my sweat cooled I was freezing. We brought two tents and 4 sleeping bags that they rented from the school and we talked for a while before going to sleep around 11:30.

It wasn’t the best sleep ever – it was cold and the ground was hard and there were lights outside that wouldn’t turn off and a ton of other people camping out and talking – but it was exciting to be camping near a mountain top in China!

We woke up at 6am, packed up our things and left at 6:55 for Zhurong Peak, the top of Heng Shen. This part was much better than the hike last night. It was several sets of stairs and hiking up a road that was some what steep, but it was a very quick hike. We make it up at 7:30 to the scenic view area, which was basically the top and a very good picture site. We ate some food (they bought me this strange tofu breakfast thing and yogurt) and then we went to the temple on top of the mountain.

It was amazing to see so many people at the top, throwing incense into the fire and bowing to the Buddhist gods inside the temple. It was really cloudy on top as well, which made it difficult to see the rest of the mountains on the top. We stayed there for awhile before starting the trek down. We made it back to our campsite area around 10:45 and then decided to buy a bus ticket down the mountain instead of walking, which would have taken many more hours.

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Once we made it to the bottom around 11:15, we went to grab lunch and then caught a taxi back to Hengyang. The taxi was 25RMB per person one way, so all in all I think climbing the mountain was worth the price. I would love to do it again, but if I did I’d probably take the cable car (it has a gorgeous view up the mountains!) or just take a bus. I’m all about making the hike worth it and no pain no gain, but the hike is just a road through the trees hahaha.

More adventures to come in 2016 – our teaching semester is almost over and then we have more than a month off to travel. It’s strange for me to think that half of this year will be spent in China, but I’m excited for what’s to come.

(also…I posted this around 2am, so forgive any errors I made that I was too tired to catch)