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Shaanxi Province: Day 4 (26 Dec)

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Checked out of the sparse hotel up Huashan at 11am. Don't think I will continue upwards anymore. Vertigo!! Even going down will be a test of nerves, especially when my foot is size 12 and the steps were carved for smaller footed chinese. Tried to refill the flask with some hot water but they seem to be very very stingy with them hot water. So no water for the instant noodles. Weather has been very clear this morning. Not too much colours, so its time for b&w film only. Burnt through a few rolls of film already.

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1301hrs: Decent path waiting for traffic jam at the steepest part of the path to clear before I go down 50m of sheer cliff steps!!! Chatted with a stall owner, that asked me about a couple of years back when there were violence against chinese in Malaysia. Hmm, told them it was Indonesia. After a 5rmb cup of hot tea, its time to move. Now here at the traffic jamm, chat with a girl that spoke english. Asked how far to the top. After her were these 2 men that asked again about persecution of chinese and after correcting them, and after the 4th person comes thru the rat hole after 50m of sheer cliff face climbing (reminds me of cyclist climbing one of the Cols in France) its time for my descent.

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1345hrs: Somewhere on the way down I confess, have no idea where I am. Though the difficult parts seemed to have passed. Chatted with an porter having a fag that allowed me to take his photo. My first donation, gave him the equivalent of a cup of tea at 5 rmb for his hardship. Taking a break here in station 19. I can already hear all the chinese on the way up chatting. Breakfast is a bar of yoghurt and some hot water. Touches the heart. Very very nice breakfast. Fog is closing in.

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1246hrs: Stall No 16 Taking a break in the stall, hot water for the instant noodle I brought up is 2 rmb and 3 rmb for a cup of tea. Considering the lady boss of the stall mentioned to me when asked that a porter earns about 70 rmb per trip up carrying water, gas everything, maybe its not too bad. The fog is closing in, can't see too much anymore, and I guess the steepest steps are over already. Time to make the raid down after drinking the soup.

1642hrs: Bus to Xian What a hike! Tired as nuts. My legs are like jelly by now, wet from the snow and sweat inside my 3 layered attirw. My new Arcteryx day pack was surprisingly comfortable and water just flows off it. The bus seems to stop everytime they see someone with a bag. Was in a small taxi, and when he stopped the taxi the bus came from behind, and I hopped on. Packed as usual. I'm feeling a little strang. Feeling enlightened, maybe it was the psychological stress to climb that darn mountain, maybe it was the sublime scenery this morning when I woke up above the clouds. Craggy sharp peaks all over, and the place I'm staying itself perched on top one of the cliffs.

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Sleeping last night has been difficult, worries about how I'm going to get down with the cable car out of order. There are 3 difficult parts. From the top the first was a 3m high steps carved into the rock, pure verticalness. The second part was at least 100m of super steep steps that took a long time to get up, and the third was an even steeped steps, in a little canyon that seems to go on forever. It was like a nightmare!

But I'm in the bus right now, squeezed in the back left corner. Burnt thru a roll of FP4+ and 400TX on the way down. Almost completed the first 2 gb card on the d2h. Some of the most amazing scenery I cannot take at all while hanging for dear life halfway down a 100m set of steep stairs with a pinch of vertigo setting in.

Funny thing is that the porter whom I gave 5 rmb to actually taught me how to go down. I think he said stand up straight when I was crouching to get my center of gravity down, but in doing so the legs tend to get tired and shiver! Ah well, then it was 5 rmb well spent. Will go get a nap now. Bus will take 2 hrs. Next time I write should be in Xian. Listening to 'Things you don't have to do - Norah Jones & the Pete Malick Group' on the ipod. Proper soundtrack.

1832hrs: Xian Long Distance Bus Station Thought this bus would stop at the train station. Stopped instead 2km east of the train station. So I can't take bus 610 anymore. Jumped into a taxi instead after getting frustrates at negotiating with a cycle cab driver. He wanted to charge 20 to go to the bell tower! Bet its not more in a proper cab with heating. He forgot I'm still good with numbers after coming down huashan! Going to check into City Hotel before going out dinner with the M6 and NOKTON 35 and a roll of Fuji Super Presto.

My fingers are numb from the cold. Can't feel the tactile feedback from the buttons on my Nokia E61. Lesson: can't blog in the cold!

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2042hrs: Muslim Quarters As a habit, I seem to be attracted to Xian's muslim quarters. Went into a different restaurant today and for 19 rmb, got myself a bottle of Han beer, a plate of fried cubey gelatinous thingy with loads of garlic and a couple strands of bean sprout and a dish of mutton cooked with wheat thingy. No idea what its called. But filling to say the least. Was planning to have more spicy kebab but the stomach couldn't take it. Surprising considering my only meal today was a bowl of instant noodle at one of the refreshment stations on the way down Huashan. During dinner there was an old Leica guy that wanted to know what lens I've got on my M6. Showed him my Voigtlander 35mm Nokton but he's never seen it. I think he was asking if its a Summilux. I wish I can afford that! Then its time to wander the muslim quarters with my night time camera and lens combo and bought a kg each of almonds, walnut and 2 kg of dried kiwi (because I thought it was cheap). Since they say it keeps for a year I've got plenty of time to munch.

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2102hrs: City Hotel

Just finished showering. Wow. Right and left hands are sore, and same for both legs. From supporting my bags and myself down that treacherous mountain this morning. Had a nice dinner and will spend a little time cataloging my film shot today. The 40mm on the D2H just didn't see too much action. I have shot 3 rolls of film today! 2 on the down from huashan and 1 in the Muslim quarters! They all go into an x-ray proof pouch. Only have a roll each of 400TX and 160VC left for tomorrow! Very tired but happy today. Will be going back tomorrow evening.