Friday, January 21, 2011

Winter Sports

The last time I was in Harbin I remember unsuccessfully trying to ice skate using old worn out skates.  This time I worked up a sweat at the ice festival riding around on frozen water on a bicycle sled and a chair with bottom runners that by using wooden poles with a metal pick you can push yourself around on the ice.  I was much better moving fast on the chair using upper body strength compared to the bicycle sled losing a race to my speedy pedaling travel companion.
It took three hours by plane to get to Harbin from Xian, but instead of paying another $130 to return by plane, I decided to travel my way back via train and bus, 42 hours of being on a moving hostel, sleeping in seats, drinking hot water, using W.C.'s that spill out onto the tracks, and unable to see out the frosted windows.  For only a cheap $60 that included two nights in a hostel, I was able to return to site spending most nights on the train, only two nights in a hostel and stopped at three cities breaking up the long ride back.  It only took me 8 days to return home.
The first stop was Chang Bai Shan, a nature reserve with a snow covered inactive volcano.  We stayed with M.'s student's family whose hospitality was overly generous.  The father cooked us a 9 pm dinner of dumplings, fungus, and other small dishes with blueberry juice and every morning the father was in the kitchen cooking a six course breakfast.
The highlight of the whole trip was getting to go skiing for FREE!  The extended family work on the mountain and got us free tickets to access the volcano and free ski rentals and tickets.  I have only been skiing twice because it is an expensive sport in Washington, so I was somewhat excited about getting the chance to ski again.  I was a little afraid though that it wouldn't be fun because I felt that starting at square one is a cold place to begin.
It was FANTASTIC.  Muscle memory is an amazing thing.  Even though I hadn't been on skis since I was 24 or so, I was able to pizza wedge my way down, making comfortable turns on the long easy narrow slopes empty of people.  On a particularly narrow and steep part for this beginner, I wiped out four times into the sides of the run, unpacked snow, soft to fall into, difficult to climb out of.  I think playing rugby for a few years made me less afraid of falling compared to the first time I tried skiing.
It was a new ski resort and had no ski lifts, so we had to hike up the mountain carrying our skis and poles.  Just kidding... Actually we rode on speedy snowmobiles up the mountain to the start of the run, got wind burn, and had to rub snow on our faces until we could no longer feel our fingers.
After skiing, we ate a fifteen course banquet with about fifteen family members at a fantastic restaurant.  There were at least eight different dishes of mushrooms and fungus all picked from the mountain.
The last morning, we explored the small mountain town whose vendors set up outside boxes of frozen fish, dried tea, and hanging frozen skinned dogs.

1 comment:

M said...

I just realized it took us as long as the flight to actually GET your plane ticket. Craziness!
pizza wedge is a funny expression, me gusta.
and... are you saying i have ZERO upper body strength ? hahahahahhahahahaha
it's kind of true. but i bet i ll still kick your ass playing darts. That's a challenge, yes.