We leave the Stone Forest and, as soon as we arrive in Kunming, we understand we don’t wanna stay in yet another metropolis. No need to travel till Yunnan for it. Then we take a minivan – call it a “bus” would be way too generous – till the 汽车站 (qiche zhan, the bus station) where we buy two tickets to Dali, town with name almost as exotic as Timbuktu.
We are lucky: the bus leaves in twenty minutes and at six p.m. we are already in Dali New Town. Yes, in Dali they built the modern metropolis fifteen kilometers far away from the Old Town. I’m not sure whether they did it to preserve the traditional architecture or because, from a logistical point of view, it was more convenient to develop the new town in another place. Knowing the taste of Chinese for urban sustainability and business matters, I would say the second hypothesis is more luckily to be true.
How to lose yourself in Dali
Dali New Town is just about the same of any other Chinese town: a mess of cars, vendors and smog. We take a public bus as fast as we can and arrive to the West gate of the Old Town. Oh, this is much nicer. Almost no cars nor noise, and a beautiful sight of the Cang Mount which is just in front of us.
The hostel we booked, Dali Lily Pad Inn & International Guest House, should only be five minutes away but we are still able to get lost. Shame on us! We finally decide to call the hostel. Lily, the owner, is so kind to come looking for us along the highway 214 that, according to the panels, ends in Lhasa.
We check in and, destroyed, go to sleep.
We have two days to spend in Dali. The first one flows fast while we explore the old town: the fruit market, the local food, the outdoor butchers and the touristic street, where we enjoy the fountains and the psychedelic lamps shop.
At least I believe the lamps are psychedelic as Feng enters behaving as a normal human being and comes out with the ugliest watch I ever seen (sorry, no photo…). Luckily she will lose it soon.
At the hostel we meet Tom, an Australian guy proud of living at Lily Pad since six month without having worked nor visited any other spot in Yunnan. I ask myself if he at least explored Dali, but I don’t think so: every time I see him he’s smoking or trying to play the old guitar of Lily’s grandfather. The mystery is not solved yet…
Getting lost in Cang Mount
The day after we decide to climb the Cang Mount, or at least to try to…
Furio: Shorts, casual t-shirt, jacket and hiking shoes.
Feng: mini-skirt, white top, elegant jacket and pumps.
I look at her with extreme disapprobation but I don’t say nothing. She tilts her head on a side and asks me:
“什么?” (Shenme?), that in this context I would translate as “What’s wrong?”
I only answer: “走吧!” (Zou ba!), “Let’s go!”
We are yet to start climbing that we are already lost: instead of turn left as common folks we inexplicably turn right and, after somehow bypassing a military zone, we end up in a cemetery. I fill like in The cemetery man, the movie with Rupert Everett. We are only missing Anna Falchi laying naked on a tomb.
While I’m still asking myself why Anna Falchi is not here yet, Feng – definitely more practical in this situation – asks to a farmer for directions. He tells us:
“Last month two tourists made your same mistake, got lost and died on the forest.”
Thank you very much. I touch my left testicle just in case while Feng takes out her bag some walnuts and starts to eat.
I lose my coolness (bear in mind this is not difficult)
“Feng, we are already late and JUST had breakfast! Come oooon.” She looks at me and says:
Women… they have the pragmatism of an old turtle and yet if they were not in this planet there would be no sense at all on traveling (or doing anything productive, for what it matters). I would only stay at the bar, play cards and get drunk through countless ammazzacaffè. I sigh and sit down to eat some walnuts.
After several attempts we find the right way and start to climb the stairs. What I really like about Cang Mount is that, at the opposite of almost all Chinese “famous” mountains, there is NOBODY. If you live in China, you do realize this is a huge point to make. The silence is magic, I can even hear Feng that, fifty meters downstairs, opens another walnut.
An hour later (maybe more) we reach the first check point and, lost into the fog, I find a “scary” panel. It says more or less like that:
“Follow the path because if you get lost nobody will come to rescue you. It’s your problem…”
Upsss. Considering how easily we get lost, I touch again my left ball. Feng decides that, even if the mountain is desert, she needs a bathroom to pee.
“Here is the panel, the toilet must be close!” she lets me notice.
“It suffices to follow the path” I reckon. This is how I make the mistake of the week, letting her walking alone in this forest where the fog mixes with the rain and the waterfalls making it impossible to see further than five meters or communicate. I wait ten minutes, than I get paranoid.
What if she gets lost? I try to call her but there is no signal. I run till the bathroom, which is just there! I enter the women toilets but nobody is there.
“Shit shit shit,” I think “she took the wrong way.
At this point is raining hard and there is no way to see or hear nothing: the cool Cang Mount became the Black Forest. And I’m thinking about all the times Feng got lost and the “Sorry no rescue here” panel.
This is when I start to scream on the void. I keep calling her for I don’t how long. Then a police women pops up from nowhere and looks at me as I’m a stupid white devil screaming on the void. How to blame her?
I keep running from the bathroom to our original meeting point, but Feng seems to have disappeared. I enter again thw women toilet but nothing. Then I come out and Feng is there that looks at me and says:
I hug her, I cry a bit but not too much because I’m ashamed.
“I thought I lost you,” I tell her.
“Oh, I went to check if we can use the cable way to climb down.”
The top of Cang Mount is still far away but it’s pouring down and I’m not on the “climbing mood” anymore.
We take the cable and are back to Dali completely soaked.