So I went to this swanky outdoor store to get the best hiking boots available. After all, I would be taking some mean adventures. Three hundred dollars later, I had these high-tech Italian leather dreams on my feet. I was ready to go. About two months later, I was putting these things to great use when I was five hours into a climb up the Yellow Mountain. My feet were feeling as good as I could expect, but I kept staring in disbelief at the high-heeled shoes all of these old women were wearing. Were they stupid, or was I just a wimp? One more hour up, and two more down. When I woke up the next day, I was in anguishing pain. The wrinkled ladies must have shared my feelings, but they had three hundred dollars more in their pockets. Who was the stupid one now?
Flash forward, a number of years later, and we were staying at a trucker’s hotel in some Sichuan backwater. My boots had to be put outside because, though the room smelled like a thousand years of trucking feet, and ball sweat, my shoes smelled worse. The next evening, just after dusk, we heard the rocks begin to fall. The road was landslid [sic.] in, but our driver insisted we could make it. After a bit of investigation, my friend, the van driver, and I all decided, after nearly being pelted by a few falling stones, that it would be best to camp the night out on the side of the road. A few hours later, and I found myself outside the mianbao che on my back trying to sleep. There were too many people in the little vehicle to get comfortable. Shortly thereafter, I was joined by my friend, who said his snoring was waking everybody up. It was freezing. Our chattering teeth were loud enough to keep the yaks awake. As dawn arrived, I pulled my eyelids free of my icicle laden eyelashes only to focus upon a woman who had her face just a foot or so away from mine. Her face was covered in black cloth, and she looked like, well like a yak herder, which was what she was. She screamed. I screamed like a little girl. My smelly feet were numb.
Rewind a few years. I was on one of those buses with wooden seats equipped with an air horn from hell, and I just couldn’t get a wink. Twisting and turning, we were something like eight hours into our twenty four hour long journey down to Xishuangbanna. The ancient dude next to me had been asleep the whole time. I thought he actually might be dead. He didn’t move. Until, that was, that the bus stopped for a meal, whereupon he got off, went to the outside back of the bus, dropped his pants, and took a shit. He got back on and continued to sleep, in his sandals, three hundred dollars richer than me.
By Tim Hoerle