The American contacts me that she’s in Xi’an and plans on going to Mount Hua tomorrow if I want to go. Hell yes. We agree to meet in the subway station. It works surprisingly well.
We buy our train tickets but separately so we end up in different cars. I eat the steamed buns I brought and watch the scenery go by. It’s a quick ride and we arrive where wallets (and feet) go to die. Every turn there is something to pay for. To make it worse, it is the only place to really over charge you for snacks and drinks.
We pay for the entrance tickets. There’s a shuttle bus that takes you to the start– for a price. Your choice now is to either walk up an obscene amount of stairs or pay for the cable car. We figured there will be plenty of stairs at the top.
Up and up we go in the cable car. We spy the long way labeled the Soldiers’ Way leading to the top of North Peak. We’re so pathetic on this walk that we let an old lady set the pace. We were most disappointed when she decided to turn back when the trail got steep.
Some time after the old lady left we make a new friend. He tells us his English name is Kegger. Kegger? Yes. He tells us it’s like the American keg parties, that he liked to drink beer in college. I was trying to figure out if he had westerners at university.
When we stopped at the top of East Peak to rest, he shares the snacks he brought. We did like wise but he didn’t want the chocolate covered things we had. The pull apart bread was sampled but it had an odd taste from whatever was sprinkled on top. It was left for the birds should they be so hungry.
We passed the chess pavilion and I was disappointed that we missed the turn. The thought of backtracking over the stairs again, made me move forward. The Western Peak was in sight… Why would they make so many stairs?
We’re back on the bus but there’s some confusion as to if the bus will return to where we started at North Peak. The bus attendant was not helpful what so ever and gestured for us to leave. Kegger tells us we can take a taxi with him to the train station. We watch as Kegger negotiates with the taxi driver. It’s settled and we’re on our way. The road is familiar but the taxi turns. We look at each other like there’s no way we’re being scammed… Right? The driver takes us on the scenic route via dirt roads despite nice ones we were just on. This continues for a while and it’s alright as we reach the train station.
We have to wait for the slow train. We ask Kegger more questions about himself or things about China. If he doesn’t have an answer, he will ask whoever is around. Too bad we didn’t go out for dinner. It would have been awesome!
Kegger is in a different car than us so we say our goodbyes on the platform right before the train arrives. A couple minutes later it arrives… A train I have only seen in a museum. It looks like it’s from the 1940s complete with original wooden window sills and ceiling fans. We laugh as its so unexpected. We haven’t come across any trains like this in China.
It gets us back to Xi’an all the same. On the way to the hostel, I stop for street food. I sit at the tiny child size table and eat fried rice. I can’t wait to sleep.