Celestial Goose Trail, part II
A few busy days have passed since me scaling that divine mountain and my legs still hurt. The summer heat has made me weak and I'm keeping myself busy indoors; I finally find time to finish the Trail while my memories of it are still fresh.
Last time the Trail took us all the way from the Oil Press Town, down through the older streets and past the River, to the Eastern Mountain. The question I asked myself was: "Shall I take the route I know, through the backside of Coal Mine Village and Witches' Hill, or do I feel adventurous today?"
6. Hey, I definitely feel adventurous. It's hot but I'm not yet tired and feel that it can't really get any worse from now on. I turn the other way and try to find the new street I haven't yet walked. There it is: I have gone past it hundreds of times while coming from and going to the Empire of Evil when I still lived on the western side of the mountain. And it never really picked my interest - could it be that my mind was always too occupied with thoughts too obsessive to leave place for anything else? This time, however, I decide to enter and follow it to the end. It's a hillside road, meaning there's a deep drop on the right-hand side, where new buildings are being constructed, while the "slum" district uphill is separated from the world of the rich and beautiful by a tall and conspicuous wall. Ask anyone living their dream in the Empire of Evil or other hopeless nouve-riche district and they'll be quick to answer that obviously there are no poor people in the City; walking the Celestial Goose Rd. I once again realise we probably have very different definition of the word "people", thus the confusion.
7. The wall continues for a bit until I am high enough that it gives way to a community or two, possibly from the early 2000s, and finally another row of small-town houses that give it a very countryside road look. There will soon be huge school grounds on the left side, and if I am to let the Trail go and decide to go through the Witches' Hill I ought to turn left here. Somehow, though, I find the heat pleasant and decide to continue, knowing that there won't another chance to change my mind. I don't like retracting my steps so if I decide to get somewhere I need to keep going, nevermind the weather or road conditions. It's much more quiet up here than it was on the first section of the road, down by the Eastern Mountain; very few cars coming this way, too.
8. The moment I pass the street that could be my only gateway off the Trail, I actually start feeling weary - there's no shade anywhere, as it's 2 in the afternoon, and the air is starting to get thicker. The road relentlessly leads me higher and higher, as I take step after step trying to measure my strength. There are some shabby shacks along the way and little scrap metal workshops, but I pay them all no mind as I start regretting pushing myself too hard yet again. Then, the Celestial Goose suddenly takes a sharp turn, and I can see an opening in the wall of houses - the whole sky within my reach. I feel the climb was worth it, not knowing that it's far from over.
9. Now it doesn't feel like being in a city anymore. No sight of any skyscrapers, only motorcycles and electric scooters going up the narrow road. I know I am getting closer to a mountain overpassing the Beijing Rd tunnel - I must be about halfway through the Celestial Goose street, or so I think. My stomach starts feeling dodgy, I suppose on account on the intestine noodles I had at the corner of the Oil Press Town market. Note to self: not the best food to eat in on a day when hellfire roams freely; the higher the altitude, the worse it gets, contrary to the fact that it usually is cooler in the mountains.
10. Bad stomach or not, I press on. The air is heavy and dusty, the whole road looking like it led through a barren desert. This impression is made stronger by the earthen colours of the buildings on both sides, for a moment I think I'm in Gansu again, even thought where I went didn't really look much like it. I wish there was some water nearby - a creek, a pond, whatever. Some women are using a water pump and cleaning the dishes in a big basin, I want to stop and ask them to let me refresh my face and neck a little. This would, however, become a distraction, as one thing I have learnt while doing long walks and treks is that stopping is a bad idea unless you're absolutely positive that you're going to die in the next 5 seconds. I give myself 5 minutes, so it can't be that bad.
11. Finally! There are some trees in the distance, and it seems the road will now lead through a wilder terrain. According to my map there's bound to be a mountain to cross but the road dissapears halfway - I need to trust my luck and hope there still is a way to get to my destination, Quite frankly, there is almost always a way to get somewhere, even if all the maps say otherwise.
What's that, though? There seem to be some kind of forest park just where the line of trees begins, with a parking lot on the right and a huge gate on the left. I am, after all, on the very top of where the tunnel goes, so there's bound to be a vantage point from which I could see the surrounding area. But of course, it's not a park of any kind, I rebuke myself; there are never any parks in places like this and there's only one logical explanation for there being some newly build facilities and neatly planted trees in the middle of a lonely mountain. The flight of stairs leading up the mound looks like a certain heat stroke, but perhaps I can find some shade beneath the trees, cool down and catch my breath? That is, of course, if I decide to take yet another detour...
As I am neither supersticious, nor particularly good at not straining myself (because: look, there's one more tiny little pagoda on the opposite side of the valley, we MUST go there now), of course I had to go through the gate and explore this new exciting area thoroughly. What I found, Dear Reader, I shall include in the next (and the last) installment of this Trial.