Scooting, as I said, in quick, well-placed steps (I did not want to stumble), I looked violently for a place of refuge
. I had just gotten back around the turn as I heard him pull up onto the path probably ten feet behind. There was no doubt he would catch me up in a heartbeat like [insert favorite NASCAR or F-1 analogy] if I tried to outrun him so, for an instant, I considered flinging myself downhill in a lunatic run. The thought was in and out. I was sure to trip and plow face first through sticks and stones or if I managed to keep my feet, instigate a mountain ram style collision with a tree. I had little chance of escaping uninjured even if the bull didn't decide to follow. I needed a barrier of sorts to interject between us. The only problem was, there didn't seem to be anything that would fit the criteria handy. A couple more steps and I spotted two solitary pine trees about five yards uphill off the trail. I had the head start and without hesitation attacked the slope at full speed. I was a bit burdened as I was lugging my day pack and the case for my 35mm and lenses and had it all covered with a green, clumsy poncho, but I pushed and clawed my way to the backside of those life saving trees. Once there, there was an easy, two foot wide, foot hold that half circled, then ended abrubtly verticle back down to the path. As I turned to assess the situation, I saw the bull slow as he did the same and then committ to the slope as I had, still in hope of sticking the wiley trespasser. I worked my way around and noticed the bull strugle a bit as he pulled himself up. As he came to the top side, I attempted a graceful descent only to lose my footing on a loose stone and tumble down the bank, rolling over a couple of times, but always keeping an eye on the monster following me
. Luckily for me, due to his proximity, that wasn't difficult to do. That was the only positive thing about being a couple of yards from him, I sure wasn't gonna lose him. He walked patiently to the back side where I had proved my gracefulness as I regained my feet and kept the pines directly between us. He started down, and I clamorred up. He paused to calculate his chances and I new that I was safe. I could keep this up for hours and knew that eventually his anger would subside and then his attention would wane, allowing me to make my exit. That turned out to be the case, but not before he pursued me around the double barriers, which I so dearly cherished, twice more. He paused and considered each time he reached stability on the high or low ground, and I began to curse and mock him and all his kind. I told him how stupid he was and that he was someone's property, and I swore to that dumb animal that I would feast upon beef that very night and for every meal following untill I left Wutai Shan in hopes he or someone he loved would be taken for the slaughter a day, hour, or even minute earlier than he would have otherwise. He reluctantly gave up his pursuit, marked his territory, and I made my way on down the path past the hiefers, who had dropped downhill a few yards watching. I was a bit tired, but intensely satisfied at having no puncture wounds or hoof marks to testify to my encounter.
The rest of my journey back to the village was no less dramatic
. I met another bull on the same path about ten minutes later, but immediately fled into the thick woods uphill untill he passed. I made it to open ground and spotted two more of the brutes laying 50 yards apart, directly where I hoped to go. I scalled the steep face well away from them and made my way over the crest to come in view of a lonely temple at the bottom of the lulling valley about half a mile off. The trip downhill was easy and required no path and about ten minutes in, I stopped to set up my tripod and take some shots of the surrounding mountains. Having strewn my things all around me, ANOTHER bull came a strollin' down to me. He didn't run, but he was obviously headed right through me. This again ended in me running for my life, this time into a small ditch to hide. On the half hour trip to the temple I avoided about five more that were scattered through the erratic hills. None got too close, but I felt like a soldier behind enemy lines, ducking and crawling, slowly sneaking over rises and peaking around corners in order to avoid detection. It was quite tense.
It finally ended (so I thought) when I reached the temple and asked someone my location. They gave me directions back to civilization, but informed me it was a good two hour walk. I had already covered a lot of ground that day, but there would be no more bogeys so I was content. The road was well paved and wound steeply through the surrounding hills and after about 20 minutes, I stopped for a break and a bite to eat
. Just finishing my snack, a white SUV came screaming down from the direction of the temple. I hadn't counted on a ride, and so happily accepted when the monk driving screached to a stop at my upturned thumb. I hopped in, and he scared all remaining energy and thirst for adventure out of me. He absolutely screamed down that baby scribble shaped pavement, sometimes the speedometer topping 110 km/hr (around 65 mi/hr). This was a reality TV worthy performance and when he finally dropped me off near the town, I fell to the ground weeping and embarrassed at the newly darkened crotch of my shorts.
That marked the true end of the excitement and I was glad for it, but, for the remainder of the day, I harbored a very ominous feeling. I popped into the first restaurant I spotted for dinner and had to fight down the urge to order two of every beef dish on the menu. I did order one and enjoyed it on a different level than I've ever enjoyed food before. The taste of retribution, a taste that can not be sold or bottled. The next day I was on my way to Taiyuan in transit to Xi'an and happy for the experience of Wutai Shan, but glad to be on my way.
Well, I could've stretched that a lot longer, but I needed to be done with it. Hope you enjoyed it. Send all positive comments to me and all criticism to my mother so that she may berate you and tell you how ignorant you are
. I'm now in Kanding
with my two British travel buddies Vinny and Mike. We get along great so far and I'm really enjoying the company. The group dynamics work out well because Vinny and I both love hiking and Mike loves.....not...hiking or even moving for that matter so he's quite content having me to deflect Vinny's incessant need for motion. We are definitely in the mountains now. Kanding sets in a valley at an elevation of 2600 meters which is over a mile and a half above sea level. Towering over it is Gongga Shan, a peak that reaches 7600 meters (4.7 miles) (That's only 1200 meters lower than Mt. Everest) into the thickly clouded sky. We have only been able to see the base because of the weather, but the surrounding area is also very impressive. Vinny and I took a hike up to Paoma Shan
today, a lower peak that Vinny reckoned was around 3400 meters, and then worked our way through the surrounding countryside, stumbling onto a beautiful mountain stream (Videos 1
)and a Tibetan graveyard
overlooking Kanding. It was a terrific hike sure to be followed by many more in this part of the world. I'm really enjoying it here. We came back in town tonight, and I caught some young girls performing on the street. The youngest was probably 4 and the oldest maybe 12. They were really amazing as the video (Videos 1
) will attest. The show lasted a good half hour so these are just a few of their acts. We catch a bus tomorrow for Litang about eight hours away. That town is over 4000 meters above sea level so I'm sure the hiking will start to wear me down faster as the air thins out. I'm ready, but my bus leaves early and it's late here so I'm going to bed. Here's a picture of The Land of the Bulls also known as Wutai Shan. I snapped it just before I set up my tripod and was attacked again. The other is from the cable car window I took down from the peak of Hua Shan outside Xi'an after I hiked up it (Six hours in the heat with a heavy pack. Ouch!) and camped out along the path to watch the sunrise. Well, everyone take it easy, and hope to hear from you soon. I'll be in touch.
The offended hiefers never stopped bawling, but I stopped hearing them. Their saviour had done his job and was running off the strange, white demon who had tried to invade their path. I'm sure they were having a great time. I, on the other hand, had turned tail and began scooting back up the natural, foot wide cow trail, very concerned with getting holes poked in my newly tanned hide. The bull, I still remember, was a nice, dark amber, rather large as wild bulls go, and, apparantly, ill tempered as they come. Broad, finely upturned horns accentuated his massive head and thick neck. Even in the sunlight, his eyes glowed a dull red and blood coated his six inch fangs in an oily web. Alright, that last bit may not have a firm basis in reality, but that's how I choose to remember it. He was a big, bad, benovolent bovine, and he was comin' right for me. I'll fully concede his physical superiority, but I've got more sense than to get eaten by a cow so I went to work.