I wasn’t exactly over the hill when the missus wanted to go trekking in Shangri La. Firstly, I’m not a big fan of rocks. Secondly, such a remote location would probably translate to shoddy accommodation and stone-age service. Interestingly, the experience proved otherwise. You see, I come from a small country where the tallest hill (we ain’t got no mountains) measures just 164 metres, so I really don’t have an idea what a mountain looks like in reality. I imagine it would be a really, really, really huge chunk of rock. Well, it is. But it was majestic. Surreal, even.
The porch outside our room faced the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. It’s so large that though the sun rises at about 6am everyday, our guesthouse remains shrouded in the shadow of the mountain till about 8am. But what’s truly fascinating is the way the sun’s rays fall on the rock surface, how there’s always a visible divide that seems to mirror the myriad dichotomies in life. Good and Evil. Light and Dark. Love and Hate. Superman and Kryptonite.
Admittedly, we didn’t get to do a whole lot of trekking because we were born down with gastric flu. But we did manage to explore the magnificent mid-section of Tiger Leaping Gorge when we recovered, and it was one heck of a journey. The floral and fauna in this area is so diverse that it felt like we were taking a tour through the four seasons in our three-hour trek. While there were trees that had yielded their leaves to the winter, countless coniferous ones stood alongside our narrow tracks, along with colourful flowers and lush green crops that were ready for harvesting.
The pièce de résistance was the gorge. Furious. Powerful. Yet gentle on the senses. There’s a strangely calming effect when the water crashes onto the rocks, thousands of splashes coming together in a low rumble that reverberates throughout the valley.
The route back up to the guesthouse was littered with adorable goats, a bunch of vendors selling anything from chocolates, sweets, drinks, souvenirs and the occasional cannabis. Yeah, talk about getting high in the mountains. It was a pretty tiring return trek, given the somewhat steep ascent, made more treacherous if you’re busy making sure you don’t step on the piles of donkey poop scattered all over the path.
There’s a simplicity to life here that other city dwellers like me may be able to appreciate. Nothing much happens here, and that’s the beauty of it. Just you, lots of goats, random donkeys, and a whole lot of Mother Nature to take in.