Day 1 - The long wait…
The warm sunlight blazed through the untinted window of the taxi’s backseat. The brewing of unfamiliar exciting days ahead laced my brain with a full spectrum of tastes. It’s always like this at the start of a trip, half anxious, half excited and a stomach that almost always seem empty and grumbling even on a full breakfast.
I’m late arriving at the airport, Aldwin had been waiting for more than an hour and the check-in counter had a queue that lasted half the time it took me to get to the airport. Checking in seemed forever at the old NAIA but we made it before the boarding time printed on our passes but only to find out, however, that our plane arrived an hour late. We were later seated at the last row where seats can not be reclined. It then began to seem that all choices we could make for this trip were being sucked away from us. Complaining seemed futile and it all became a bit worse when the rear toilets began to reek through the cabin.
Our plane landed safely at 4:00pm in Guangzhou. We we’re happily greeted by an 8 hour layover in between connecting flights. There wasn’t any decent wifi. Our circumstance left us eating fries, drinking coffee, and walking almost endless circles around the airport mall, looking at overpriced consumer products begging for attention from the weak willed and easily hypnotized into a Jedi mind trick sort.
Guiyang finally at 11:40pm. The plane tickets said a “with meals” flight and so we didn’t down too many fries before leaving Guangzhou. Our late arrival to the 5 degree cold city had us famished. The quick comfort of a late closing KFC at the arrival hall saved us from a freezing, empty stomached, lost in translation kind of night.
I handed the hotel reservation form to a taxi driver and he quickly understood the Chinese translation which I hoped we’re correct. A few minutes later our taxi dropped us off in the cold, unfamiliar streets of Guiyang City in front of Homytel. English doesn’t work in this city. All directions and communications are handled with Chinese characters printed on paper. At the reception counter, I handed our reservation form looking forward to a nice warm room for the rest of the night before heading out again to Getu Valley. We later found ourselves chatting with the concierge in front of a computer terminal and conversing via Google translate. It was funny at first but soon turned a little bit grim as we later found out that the room I reserved timed out late that afternoon. It was then around 1:00am and we’re still cold toed and back hunched from the heavy day. Warming up to what I started to believe would be the common trend for this trip I found myself absorbed in the moment. After another hour we found ourselves at an adjacent hotel, more Google translate and paying a little bit more than what we planned but at least we had a few hours of warmth before heading out again to the unknown.
The bright, cool, crisp morning felt refreshing. Though we still felt being lost in translation in the city, the colors around us seemed to pop out and give a more comforting vibe. The day started with a “Chinese style sort-of-Starbucks” walk through breakfast. Just point. No speak. This, this…thumbs up and pay. A smile almost always starts a day right. We sipped what tasted like oats and milk and chomped down on a couple of steamed bread buns as we made our way to a bank where we changed for more RMB’s. The first order of the day was to get as much comfort padding as we could. More RMB’s seemed to equal at least not getting hungry on the run.
We decided to get lost for a while around the city as we had time to spare before heading to the bus station. My phone rang about past 10am. Sig was on the other end and informed us he was already at the Guiyang airport where a Petzl shuttle transport would be taking climbers to Getu Valley. We happily welcomed the news and headed back to the airport. Finally with two other pinoyclimbers, Sig and Isa, we enjoyed conversing over lunch. We also got to meet Sean Villanueva, a soft spoken, climber from Belgium.
The day moved along slowly. The shuttle got full whilst we we’re unsuspectingly enjoying lunch and then some. The main shuttle left early. We got informed by English speaking volunteers from Guiyang University that there would be another shuttle but we’d have to split in two groups. The mini-van would only take three people at a time plus luggage. Me and Aldwin we’re 2nd in line. Sig, Isa and Sean left earlier. When the shuttle came for us it was already 3:00pm. They took us to a hotel for us to wait until more climbers would arrive. The wait was long. We had time to mope around the city a little more and finish “Cowboys and Aliens” on my computer until it was already 7:00pm. Instant spicy noodles for sale at the hotel lobby saved our hungry stomachs. The ensuing darkness seemed to tighten up the room to feel like a small coffin. Finally, a rapping at the door. As we opened up, 2 volunteers greeted with a “the bus is ready to go.” The news filled the room with new light and air rushed to our lungs as if we’d come up from deep water. The bus to Getu Valley got going. Only one more climber joined our trip, the rest, staff and volunteers. Said Belhaj from Sweden joined us on our last leg. Isa, Sig and Sean were able to hop on the earlier bus early that afternoon.
We arrived in Getu 1:00am. We got booked in the local school dormitory. We dumped our stuff on the bunks and shared the room with climbers from Hong Kong. We made our way to the adjacent canteen, ate instant noodles again and clinked a couple of Tsingtao’s before hitting the sack. Happy birthday to me and welcome to Getu Valley!