Aries at HuaShan 华山

Aries are the pioneers of the zodiac, a cardinal sign full of rigor, enthusiasm and energy. This fire sign denoted by the ram is apt, as the ram is unafraid  to enter new unknown terrain and excel in the conquest. Need a new kick-start for a new idea you know who to get in touch with! The ram likes to scale heights and is usually scaling the mountains. Maybe that’s why we three musketeers from different countries ended up at Huashan, to scale these majestic peaks. Michael from Germany, Nimrod from Israel & me from India were climbing up HuaShan with a relentless strong will to hike up all the way and back.

IMG_1706 A pretty steep climb at HuaShan

Hua Shan is one of the 5 sacred mountains in China, has a long history of religious significance. The terrain is quite tricky with vertical climbs and it could be quite exerting even for a seasoned climber. Off late, my fitness regime had taken a hit, and although i knew going up HuaShan involved climbing, I dint really expect what was to come:)

To reduce slips and to ward off unforeseen danger, there are meticulously carved steps with railings and chains for support all along the way. While climbing HuaShan one cant help but appreciate the effort that was taken, to enable the climb with comfort and ease.

The view is breathtaking and weather very pleasant, as you will be hiking among clouds. There are cable cars to reach the peak too. But we chose to climb all the way up. Throughout my climb I met many people who warmly greeted us with Ni Hao & would encourage through sign language us to climb further – they would flex the biceps and tell us to be strong 🙂 You can have a pit stop at various cafes along the way.

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At the South Peak – the highest point.

We climbed up the west peak to a monastery, where we camped the night and in the morning we trekked to the Death Trail – a 50cm wooden plank that is mounted perpendicular to the mountain wall. This trails enjoys a reputation of being the Worlds most dangerous hiking trail. It’s a 2 way traffic up here on this narrow plank, and your safety is in the harness and you have the control as you got to hook the clamps as you cross this wooden plank.

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The famous death trail – Its a 2 way traffic up here! 😉

The view from here is magnificent and gorgeous. You do feel a sense of accomplishment while you have done this climb. It is definitely a must visit while in Shaanxi Province. Its one of the highlights of visiting this section of Mainland China.

We took a bullet train from Xi’An to Huayin, just outside Huayin station we had a wonderful meal and set off to the base of Huashan in a cab. On the way back there is a free bus service from the base of Huashan to the city & we took a bus back to Xi’An as we missed the last train in the afternoon by a few mins.

Back in Xi’An we had sore muscles for the next 10 days. That was by far the most beautiful pain & I loved it because every step I took reminded me of the arduous climb and it brings a smile right back even now 🙂 Aries – the Ram belongs to the mountains – Did we 3 Aries pick Huashan, or did Huashan tempt us to scale it?

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Solo Travel

Travelling by far has had the most therapeutic effect on me than anything else. More than just travelling, its the solo travel that I am most nostalgic about. It gives me a sense of accomplishment and courage to plan the next adventure. It definitely is an adventure.

When you travel you must have a Plan-B, that’s the Golden Rule. I learnt it the hard way, but then again, experience is the best teacher, no matter how much you read up on the internet about contingency plans, there is always the surprise element.

I once read a beautiful quote about travel – “There are two types of travelers, some set out looking for an adventure and the others secretly hope that there is no adventure!” I understood what this meant with clarity, when I almost missed my flight back from Colombo due to a new online check-in rule. Believe me it was an Adventure!

My colleagues had seldom heard about anyone who would go backpacking alone. I guess the normal form of a holiday is going out with your loved one, partner, friends or family. When I was asked about my travel, I would tell them enthusiastically about my little adventure. The reaction of almost ever single one would either be of awe, amazement or total conviction that I had lost my mind to travel alone. Many would hurl their opinions at me mostly out of concern about the danger of travelling alone, and few others would react with sheer amusement. Some others would just not understand as to how I could spend an entire month by myself, mostly it would end up with “Dint you feel lonely?” I tell them as a matter of fact, that there is a stark difference between being lonely and enjoying solitude 🙂

I am the blessed to belong to the lot who enjoys their solitude and gains strength from it.

Solo Travel calls for total confidence in oneself, and total confidence that you are going to take care of YOU! You feel extremely responsible, your radar is bound to be at its best, it teaches you to be vigilant, you make sure to get the logistics right, you don’t leave any loose ends, you most definitely will plan the contingencies and become a meticulous planner!

It makes you smart, trust worthy, and makes you feel like you are in total control of how you go about your day, your itinerary for the entire trip and for all the choices you make.

We are really blessed to have all the help we need at the tip of our fingers really, there is information about the place, the mode of transport & the places to stay with ratings and feedback on the hotel websites.

I guess the first step would be to go to a place that you feel safe at, a place where you know the local language & in close proximity to your base camp (city you live) 🙂

The perks of travelling solo for me is the undivided attention I have for myself, for self introspection, meeting amazing fellow travelers, soaking in the culture of the place, getting a feel of freedom and the slight but rewarding strain of responsibility, staying out of harms way, taking precautions and getting back in one piece 😉

Solo Travel also helps you alter your itinerary as you please! You could end up staying at a place you loved for days at end.  Ideally this may not be a plausible situation if your travel buddy has had enough of that place!

With Solo Travel there is No pressure. You could play it by the ear, and move on when you feel you are 0k to go on.

Some countries do not encourage their young women to venture out alone, the taboo is not just for the imminent danger but also because it’s not a social norm. Well – then again Taboos are meant to be broken right?!