It was the summer of 2000-the summer after my freshmen year of college. I was barely 19 and wide-eyed at my first trip to the other side of the world. Almost being eaten by possibly wild dogs was the least of my worries that night.
We were staying the weekend at a hotel (the only one where foreigners could legally stay) in a remote village near the Wolong Panda Reserve in the province of Sichuan. We arrived to find damp beds and the sound of rats scurrying around the room. Lovely. After much pleading and arguing by our group leader, the hotel owner put us in a new room-except there weren't enough of the "nice" rooms for all us. So, the guys slept on damp beds and the girls squeezed four to a single and slept like sardines. Thankfully, I was on the end since I woke up in the middle of the night with the worse case of d-train EVER. If you can't guess what that is, then no worries.
Not very delightful-but funny now to look back on. The rest of the trip, however, was very delightful-or at least delightful to look back on!
The local villagers decided to entertain us "waiguoren" (foreigners) by roasting a huge pig while performing local songs and dances. We joined them, of course!
That is me on the left being a huge dork.
And, yes, I ate some pig-but only a little.
Earlier that day, we visited the Wolong Panda Reserve* which houses over 150 Giant pandas as well as other endangered animals of the region. The best part of this trip: I got to hold a baby panda!!
I look 12 in this picture..but I was 19.
I was amused by the red panda section because this is what I saw:
A red panda in the TREES because their "pen" had no roof on it!!
After visiting pandas and hanging out with villagers, we went "hiking" the next day. Or at least that's what our tour guide told us were were doing. I would describe it more as "mountain climbing." Our tour guide was wearing platform heels while she did this! Nuts.
About 10 minutes into "hiking," it started raining. I didn't mind much. I love being outdoors and hiking in the rain was actually exhilarating. The problem came when we we started "hiking" through small, cave-like tunnels with water rushing down. Our tour guide didn't bother to mention that we might want to bring flashlights. So, there we were- groping on wet, slippery rocks as thin puddles of water rushed under our feet-in the dark. I am not sure what I touched in there and I don't want to know.
About half-way up, we took a break. Our tour guide informed us she would not be going the rest of the way, but whoever wanted to could follow the strong, old Chinese "hiking" guide up. About half of us were stupid enough to try this. I was one of them.
About five minutes into the second half, we lost sight of any signs of a "trail" and we begin literally climbing the mountain. At one point, we were in a single file line and I looked down and realized that the people "behind" me were actually below me. And that's when we turned around and ditched the guide.
It was beautiful, though, and definitely the most interesting hiking trip I've experienced!
*Sadly, the Wolong Reserve suffered damage in the 2008 earthquake in Sichuan-five security guards were killed, 1 panda was killed, and 8 went missing. The rest of the pandas were relocated to another reserve in Bifeng.