Jun 5, 2008

Hiking in Huyu

There's a nature area called Huyu (虎峪) in the Beijing suburb of Changping (昌平). We did some hiking there recently as part of a trip organized by a Craigslist-like web site where local Beijing people frequently organize some small group activities.

We met our new kolegi out near one of the northern stops of the line 13 light rail, where we subdivided into about five cars, driven by some of the attendees. The organizer, a spry forty-something Chinese man, distributed walkie-talkies to all the drivers. We rode in the back seat of his car, and throughout the entire forty minute drive, he shouted driving directions at the top of his lungs into the radio. We regrouped after arriving at the dusty parking area of the Huyu scenic area to prepare to march into the forest.

Before we set off, I noticed a middle-aged Chinese lady from our group hand-feeding a dust-coated local Pekingese dog. I remarked to her, "be careful, he could have rabies", to which she sternly replied, "there's no rabies in China." Of course there isn't. I had discovered a fenqing (愤青, angry youth) in our midst.

The hike through the area was very scenic, and moderately strenuous. In retrospect, I should have worn my REI hiking boots for the ankle support. The trail running shoes I had chosen to wear weren't the best choice for this outing. I had some ankle soreness and shin splints afterwards, which were alleviated somewhat by an hour-long foot massage afterwards back in Beijing.

Here's some scenes from the hike:

You can walk along a little stream through a valley for a couple hours to the top of a small peak.

Along the way there are green pools of tadpoles and other nature to look at.

This water in the photo below looked pretty nice, but unfortunately it was a little too chilly to swim that day.

Here's a group photo (without me) of the hiking group we went with.

Some group members climbing alongside the stream.

Some of the weekend warriors in our group at the turnaround point in the hike towards the top of the climb. Some of those stringy looking tree branches were getting in the way of some of the hikers playing Chinese hacky-sack (踢毽子), at which point the hike leader cracked and ripped the branches down. Way to be low impact. I wasn't very pleased to see that, but, when in Rome. I was somewhat impressed, however, that everyone packed out their trash. I didn't see anyone leaving rubbish and food scraps behind after our mid-hike snack break.

At the rest point in the hike, pretty much all the male hikers, except me, partook of either cigarettes or beer that they had packed in. It was definitely hiking with Chinese characteristics. No Gatorade or PowerBars to be seen. Real men refuel via tobacco and alcohol.

Another thing I've learned recently, partly from this hiking experience, is that in China, it's relatively common for people to purchase grocery store hot dogs, and then eat them uncooked. I suppose it's no different from eating Oscar Mayer bologna. It's essentially the same type of meat.

Some people sitting around at the end of the hike eating ice cream and trying to remember each other's names. We played a game where all of the twenty or so hikers sat in a circle, and then you had to say something like, "my name is Wang, who is sitting next to Zhang, who is sitting next to Yang, who is sitting next to Kang, who is sitting next to Fang, etcetera etcetera" until you've mentioned the sequence of names leading up to you. I got a free pass as the token foreigner. They figured I couldn't remember the eighteen or so names before mine due to language difficulties, but I have to admit I wouldn't be able to remember them in any language.

Overall, it was a fun hike that I would recommend. I'd go out with this hiking group again. Of course, it's not the same hiking that you'd expect in America, but it was an interesting and unique experience in itself.


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