As we have a holiday coming up our headmaster, Mr Ren, decided to take the whole school on a morale boosting trip up a local mountain. This was in part to get to know each other and practise our English, but also because in his words – “the girls are lazy”. Excellent.
We were picked up at 8.30am by two buses (three were actually required but this is a minor quibble – the floor is everyone’s seat). At 9.30 we arrived at ‘base-camp’, an old Taoist temple in the middle of the woods (below). Taoism is an ancient religion in China that many feel is essential for understanding its traditions and cultures; however, it faced a hard time after the growth of Buddhism, which seems to have had much more influence on the way Chinese people think and behave. The temple itself was cool, and there were some fabulous smells coming from the traditional kitchen. We had a five-minute break to take some photos, then after some finger-pointing and shouting we set off up the trail.
It is important to mention that 90% of the teachers in my school are women. As the trail got steeper, their selection of footwear came into question, and I began to wonder whether we would a). make this before sundown and b). without casualties. Around 20mins in there were frantic shouts from the front of the group. My friend translated for me – “they’ve found a snake” (I had already warned them about my dislike for said creatures). But being April 1st, this was a cruel joke. We had in fact climbed the wrong mountain. It turned out the bus driver, eager to go off for a cigarette and something to eat, had simply dropped us at the first place we came to. Clever. Off we trudged to the bottom, where I had a little more time to look around the temple. After a crisis meeting it was decided that because the bus driver had disappeared, we might as well just climb this mountain after all.
The views at the top were magnificent, if the peak was not quite as secluded as I hoped – we shared it with a broadcast station for Huzhou television. After we made it safely back to the bottom (with no casualties), we went back to the city for lunch, where I enjoyed a beer with the boss, and finished classes in the evening. Just two to go tonight, then I’m free until Wednesday!