Day 2: Black Dragon Pools
After a fairly decent nights sleep – all things considered, we headed over to breakfast. An interesting array of foods in a buffet style with a sort of tv dinner style of tray. I tried a few things but, seeing as breakfast is not really my forte at the best of times, I was not really up for eating most of the things on the agenda. I opted for oats (as in add milk and voila porridge) and plain yoghurt, which was vaguely do-able. I knew that I needed something in my tummie to help give me some energy for the day of trekking that lay ahead. We collected our pack lunch outside the breakfast room before heading back to our room to fill up the water and put lunch into the box ready for the day ahead. I was sensible and decided not to take the fruit that needed peeling or the veg that wasn’t peeled which meant that the food options were limited. So I went for cookies and a couple of unhealthy other options. As soon as we got on the coach I decided that I would hang up my socks on the bus to get them to dry quicker on the washing line, thought that hanging my bra up as well was pushing it just a little!! This caused much hilarity and others quoting that they had seen it all! After the amount of money that I have spent on socks since we took on this journey I was not prepared to have to shell out for 5 pairs of socks I had taken 3 and was rotating them as I went washing, drying, wearing! I had already thrown out £48 worth of 1000 mile socks as they gave me HIDEOUS blisters.
After a shorter coach journey than yesterday we arrived at the main gateway to the Black Dragon Pools National Park named so as legend has it that there once lived two brother dragons who grew up together but soon had reason to part. The black dragon, being both virtuous and humble, decided to give up his home and went to reside in a grassless and waterless place. There, he strove hard to build a new home, which soon drew the attention of the gods. Because of his long and arduous work, the gods awarded him with 18 pearls. These pearls then became the 18 ponds after the dragon scattered them throughout the valley. The national park is thought to be the ideal of a peaceful getaway and is now mainly used by pensioners of the area who use the park as a place to meet up with friends.
There was another pit stop needed pretty much as soon as we had pulled up. Thankfully I was not in need, I say thankfully as it transpired to be THE worst loo that had been come across so far. It was making people feel very sick just going in there! Once they had all been relieved (or not, depending on how strong their stomaches were feeling!) we did our stretching and prepared for day 2. I was liking the idea that we were not on the wall today, the temperature was the same as yesterday but there was at least sections of shade and most importantly we were promised that it was not so hard as yesterday.
Off we set. I was really, really nervous about just how difficult it was going to be, quite how much pain would I be in come the end of the day? But I had to bite the bullet, take it slowly and at my own pace again. It was lovely and cool at the bottom of the valley and you could occasionally feel a light breeze. We had several giggles over some of the signs that were appearing in the park and the different ways in which they could spell ‘No climbing’!! Talk about stating the obvious at times!
It didn’t take long however to become dripping in sweat and for the knees and feet to begin to ache a little. We seemed to climb persistently upwards which I was not particularly fond of as it meant a fairly long down part which I really was dreading as that was the bit that hurt the most. We passed little pools as we went upwards which had inflatable dinghies floating on them or little row boats and often a few elderly Chinese sitting around in the shade nearby or actually in the dinghies and row boats of the water. I could see why people came here, the tranquility and beautiful surroundings seemed to make it an idea place to stroll and just relax.
We had been following a path (or two – we followed Michael like lemmings!) slowly and steadily upwards like I said and we started to struggle a little with the heat as mid-day came as the shade was really not as frequent as it was when we first set off. We seemed to move off-piste and through several bushes. I hated to think what the drop was like the other side of them which none of us could see. Every next stop was lunch and I began to wonder when and where we were actually having lunch! It took a lot of scrambling through bushes, and use of the GPS I guess as there was not really an obvious path as far as I could see, shimmying down rocks and such the like by which time my poor little feet were back to the sensation of the walking on drawing pins and my knees just felt like I couldn’t really rely on them but we were having to leap and jump over various bits of land. Really not comfy. By the time we got to the lunch stop I was close to tears with the pain again contemplating once more the actual necessity to keep going. Pen was out on my stick and I was having words with myself to keep going. Perhaps I should explain that last sentence?! By saying Pen was out on my stick I mean one of the pictures from my T-shirt from yesterday, I had cut them out last night so that I could keep them with me in my pockets. The rest of the T-shirt went in the bin! I found that by having the picture of her in my hand it spurred me to carry on as I just thought of all of the pain that she went through in her heroic 14 month battle with cancer and that my pain was nothing in comparison at the end of the day. Also at least I could put my feet up at the end of each day and have a beer and forget about it. Something that she never had the joy of doing. So when I was struggling I took one of the bits out of my pocket and held it either in my left hand when feeling slightly unsteady and in my right hand when I needed to see her with every step and so I wrapped the fabric around the handle of my walking pole so that her picture was on top. Somehow, it gave me that extra bit of strength that I needed. But boy oh boy was I glad to take the pressure off of my knees and feet and sit in the shade and relax a little when we eventually made it to the rest stop for lunch. I desperately needed to try and build my strength physically, and more importantly mentally, for the down section that was still to come.
Once we had completed a fairly comprehensive rest stop we were up and off again. The way down was fairly hairy with loose mud under foot and not really very sturdy branches etc to hold on to. I was almost certain that I was going to slip and send everyone flying like dominoes as it was really steep we were quite close together to begin with. I was grateful tho that at least it was shady and so one of the nasty factors of the beaming sunshine was out of the way, sadly it was incredibly muggy and humid so we were still getting a sweat on – nice!! Mark was a star helping several of us wimps down I just couldn’t trust my legs and feet to do what I wanted and seriously the LAST thing that I wanted was to do an actual injury meaning I REALLY couldn’t do any more. As much agony as I was in I was still determined to succeed. There were enough people back at home who were doubting that I would complete it, no way in hell did I want to prove them right. The scenery, even though not the wall, was stunning. Rustic, untouched China now that we had wavered away from the specific man made path that we had stuck to earlier in the day.
Once we had got to the bottom we had to make a little detour to a waterfall for a photo opportunity. To be honest the waterfall was more of a weeny trickle but it was meant to be the most famous as it was once named the tallest waterfall in Beijing coming down over a sheer rock face. Frankly having been there, done that, and got the photo it really was not worth it and I would have been better suited sat on the bus resting my legs!!
After a fairly pungent visit to the ‘respectable’ loo at the exit gateway we headed out to our 3* accommodation for the night. Looking forward to the idea of a swimming pool, which they were rumoured to have – to be honest that helped I think for the last section of the trek. I think that the drive was about an hour and we as always checked in and went straight to our room for a shower! Sadly the swimming pool idea was short lived – it was going to cost about £10 and you had to wear a swim hat. I wasn’t that desperate. I decided that I’d have a damned good shower and wash 2 pairs of trousers/shorts at the same time to make up for it – wow what a treat!!!!
We had beers before a fairly hideous supper, voted the most unpleasant by the others out of all meals that we had. It had very little choice for me so I couldn’t really comment on it. The other table were eating fish eyes which the very idea of which made my stomach turn. It transpired during supper that there was no water in the hotel – had all of our showers earlier drained the supplies?! Surely not!! It made Stace really nervous as she would doubtless need the loo. I told her not to worry, if she had to go she had to go and just not to flush what ever it was and just hope that it would all be sorted in the morning. I could tell that she was worrying about it as we went up stairs.
We headed to bed to try some sleep before hitting the wall again in the morning and the pain once more that lay ahead.
13km covered in 6 1/2 hours
Highest point reached 410metres high