I wake up and still full of the verve and vigour of a month's training with a bunch of 18 year old boys I decide to trek up the mountain Cangshan. I try and follow the incredibly simple map to the start of the route and luckily being me – get lost and end up taking a motorbike for a quid up to the hiking entrance.
I've packed some bao dzur (steamed buns filled with pork purchased for 60p) and a snickers for lunch. I've started my day in preparation by having a banana and chocolate pancake and a coffee – yum. After the hiking entrance which costs 30RMB its a steep 45 mins – 1hour walk up stone steps until it levels out to flat path. The walk up isn't particulary inspiring as the mountain top is crowded with pine trees – its cool and green and peaceful but there are no views until you reach the main path after an hour. This is fine – but as with all walking/running its difficult when you don't know how much further you have to go (or if you are me - even if you are actually on the right track...!) But when I get to the main path it is all worthwhile. The views over the rolling mountain side and the lake are gorgeous. The mountain top is beautiful and so tranquil, sometimes jagged, sometimes falling away into nothing or split up with little waterfalls. I walk one way and come to the Zhongdian temple. I stop there and eat my steamed buns looking out over the hillside and the lake and feel very very content and lucky to be alive. I bump into an American in her sixties who has come up the path directed by the hostel – which is apparenty is just a mud track that takes about an hour and half – and feel very relieved I got the bike to the correct entrance!
I walk the other way to see some of the other scenic spots on the Park's map – Seven Dragon's Pool which is supposed to be a series of little lagoons and waterfalls – and Dragon's Eye and Phoenix Cave – but disappointingly they are all shut.
I make my way down again and find noodles for 6 yuan (60p) and then visit the local market. Dali has lots of street markets open on different days – one of the best is right down the road from the hostel.
Its a colourful and lively affair. At the street entrance are traders selling spade heads and hoe parts for farmers, there are huge grinding machines churning up large wicker drying trays of chillis into bright scarlet powder and tea leaves a plenty. They sell everything here from modern necessities such as torches, knives and dvds to traditional medicine stores selling bits of skulls, snake skin and fungi.
Perhaps the most alarming stalls are the Dentists who ply (no pun intended) their trade here. On their stall they have laid out ceramic tooths, moulds and er pliers... (GULP.) Many of them are at work staring down the open mouth of an almost toothless old farmer. Mental note – do NOT get a toothache in China...
Tomorrow I get a 7 hour bus ride to Qiatou - the start of Tiger Leaping Gorge – my next (a mere 23k) trek.