Jade Mountain - Take 2 - Day 2 (Part 2)
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I was thrilled. There were actually 8 members in the group (3 from Zhongli 中壢, 1 from Taoyuan city 桃園市 and 4 from Taipei 臺北) and a hired guide. Turns out I was actually at one of the check-in points: the Paiyun Visitor Center (排雲遊客中心). They said they would wait for me while I got my permit printed out and watched the 10 minute introductory/instructional video on Jade Mountain. Some 20 minutes later, I was ready to go. We took a shuttle bus up to the trail head (the Tataka trail...the main and most common one), got a few pictures out of the way and then began our hike. It was approximately 9:45 AM.
The first 30 minutes or so were just brutal for me. Not because the trail was difficult....it was actually quite easy...it's because my heart was just pounding away at a million miles per second. I had finally made it! I was ON the trail. I was going to make it to the top...FINALLY! It took quite a while to just get my excitement in check and calm down a bit. Once that was done, I fell into a comfortable rhythm.
I actually only know 3 of the 8 names. Gabriel and Scott hung out with me most of the time and spoke the most English. Then there was Stanley the camera man. They were aged between 32 and 56. Since I am only 31...I became known as 'little sister' （妹妹）. I told them I felt very safe with so many older brothers (哥哥) around. The pace we had was decent. We took a comfortable amount of breaks. I was a bit surprised by the 3 (aside from myself) youngest members of the group lagging behind so much. The 32 year old guy, I guess, was just completely not used to physical exertion....at all. We got along quite well with each other and joked around quite a bit. We started swapping mountain climbing stories and I told them about Mount Fuji in 2006. I then got a new nickname: Superwoman. It was quite a fun experience and I am really glad I met those guys. They made all my trials and tribulations worthwhile.
Some 3 KM from the lodge (the trail to the lodge is listed at 10.9 KM one way but I was told that the GPS says it's more like 12 KM) we stopped at a scenic little rest area. Clouds started rolling in at incredible speeds and the next thing I knew there was a complete whiteout. I decided to put on my rain suit. The guys all looked at me like I was crazy. They said I was going to be too hot, how it wasn't going to rain and tried to convince me to take it off. I insisted on keeping in on and told them I would be just fine. Some 5 minutes after we resume hiking, thunder could be heard. Some 5 minutes after that it began to rain. I felt quite vindicated watching everyone rush to get their rain gear out when I already had mine on! All I had to do was get out the rain cover for my backpack and I was ready to go.
Gabriel, Scott and I took off ahead of the others. Our guide stopped to fertilize the landscape and so we just carried on without him. The rain wasn't too heavy. It was more like afternoon showers. Kinda off and on. Made things very misty in some areas. Unfortunately it made things hotter and more humid. I began sweating buckets. Gabriel and I caught up to Scott some 1.5 KM from the lodge. In the end, I made it to the lodge first (at 3:30 PM), Gabriel came in second and Scott finished third. My Superwoman title solidified. The others trickled in slowly...with the last 3 guys coming in some 1.5 hours after we did.
I immediately set out to get out of my rain suit and change out of my wet clothes. I ate some instant rice meal (hiking store product) thingie I had brought along as well as some hot oatmeal. I then drank a nice piping hot mug of Ovaltine. I got out my sleeping bag and tried to get some rest. This was practically impossible. Just about everyone was arriving at the same time and there was much talking as well as zipping and unzipping of bags. Around 4-ish I heard a massive downpour happening outside. Thankfully it only lasted about 15 minutes.
Getting comfortable on the lodge bed was somewhat of a challenge. The mat they have lining the bed is very thin and not comfy...at all. I didn't get much sleep, but I did manage to rest my legs a bit. Around 5 PM the guide had finished preparing dinner. I got invited to join in on the feast. I was sooo happy. They actually had real rice and vegetables and meat. There is a kitchen at the lodge. They cook things in aluminum woks with gas powered Bunsen burner type contraptions. There is electricity up there...but no much. I managed to charge my camera battery a bit in someone else's room. Thankfully there is always an abundant supply of hot water for instant food/drinks/snacks.
The rain/mist/clouds cleared up around 6:15 and I managed to get some cool sunset photos in. I had abandoned the plan to hike up to the peak to catch the sunset and then hike it again to catch the sunrise. I decided that one sunrise hike would be plenty. Power was shut off at 7 PM and there were a few lights running on generator power. At 8 PM the generator got shut off and everyone went to sleep.