Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tanglangshan: The Little Mountain Next Door

Saying that Shenzhen is hilly would be like saying that winter winds on the Midway are brisk. An understatement.
250-300 meters up Tanglang. The city is under the smog in the distance.

While we’re not Andean Patagonia or the Himalayas, we are very much not flat.

The Pearl River Delta is both heavily populated and heavily mountainous. Shenzhen’s development skirts the giant hills and mountains scattered throughout. When you fly over the city it’s sort of like this:


For reference: I’m using the traditional English definition of mountain: a landform over 305 meters in height in relation to its surroundings.

Looking towards the top of Tanglang from a ledge a few hundred meters below.
I live pretty much smack across from the third-highest mountain in Shenzhen, Tanglang Shan. When I put my clothes on the clothesline, I’m looking at it. At 430 meters (1,413 feet), it’s not a whopper (unlike Wutongshan in the east of the city, which is 944 meters), and it’s not the highest I’ve hiked (689 meters) but is definitely a nice hike. On cloudier days, there’s usually a little cloud chilling on top (I've called it the Tanglang Kippah). It’s a really popular weekend outing for young families and spry old ladies, so they’ve added steps most of the way.

Steps at one of their shallower points. At some places the climb gets a lot steeper. 
Normally, I’d not go on the path, but I did so today for two reasons: 1) I’m still getting over a cold and 2) Snakes. I hate snakes. Just like Indy.

I got up around 8am after a really bad night’s sleep –only about three and a half hours. Combined with the remnants of my cold, it was probably a clarion call to say “no, don’t climb the mountain!” But I’m sort of stubborn, and decided to make a go of it. I bought some water and OJ and set off after breakfast.

It’s only a thirty minute bus ride to the entrance to the park on the other side of the mountain. I got there and still felt a bit shitty. I took a drink of OJ, a puff of the inhaler, and contemplated.

The trail near the start. Not shown: the bench I'm standing on. 
Then I thought: “fuck, let’s go ahead with this.”

The trail is gorgeous. It goes through really pretty forest, and occasionally a mini-moor. There’s also a point where you pass the poles carrying the electrical wires. 

Looking onto Shenzhen
Hard to believe that this is in the middle of a city of ~9 million people, in a region with connected metro areas totaling 70 million. Also: note that we have climbed through an initial smog layer.
You also climb through the smog. Having clear air, even for a short while, is a real blessing. I love the cleanliness of the air, even though I’m surrounded by city. There’s a coolish breeze starting at around 300m up.

Shenzhen through the smog
 There are also great views scattered around.

The top, now a lot closer!
I started feeling better some of the way into the climb and a lot better closer to the top. It gets quite steep at points closer to the end, but it’s really magnificent.

Then I got to the top. I felt really achieved. I went on the little viewing terrace, and looked down. And there was my apartment building. It’s pretty novel to see where you live from a new, crazy angle.
OK, see the stadium? See the four apartment buildings behind it? See the one furthest to the left? I live there.

This is a city. This place is gorgeous. Also, smog valleys.

Looking over to the more populated south side of the mountain.
My stubbornness was worth it. The climb was really rewarding. When you climb a mountain, even a small one like Tanglang Shan, there’s a rush of “I’m awesome because I topped this mountain.” And I felt that. It’s nothing compared to what some of my friends did this summer, but it’s special for me. Because I see it every day. And now I can say that I’ve been on top of that mountain. The most important one to me.

In retrospect, I realize what I did was stupid. Mountain climbing while sick, with breathing issues, on not enough sleep is just a bad idea. But the reward was really worth the risk. I think also…that it’s some progress for me. I’m getting over many of my anxieties, and I can take more risks now. But I promise that I won't take more health risks.

I descended, quite sweaty, and took a cab back. After lunch, I had a different event: a new roommate.


My roommate for the next three and a half weeks is Shitong, a Chinese PhD student at the Yale Law School. He’s staying until January. He’s a nice guy, a bit quiet, and seems clean.

It’s strange to have someone in the next room now. I’ve gotten so used to having someone here that it’s weird to have someone next to me. I guess I’ll get used to it.  He seems to be into doing his own thing too, so I don’t know how much of a presence he’ll be anyways.

1 comment:

  1. "On cloudier days, there’s usually a little cloud chilling on top (I've called it the Tanglang Kippah)."
    That's adorable!