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Hiking 鸡足山

Greetings from Dali!

In this post I will wrote about our experience hiking Dali’s famous “Ji Zu Shan” which translates in English to “Chicken Foot Mountain”.

*one American dollar is about 6.5 Chinese yuan or “kuai”*

As we transitioned from our rural homestay into x-phase the group was working hard to make sure everything was planned: hotels were booked, train tickets were purchased and reservations were made. However, there was one remaining unknown- the night of the 19th. (We referred to it as the night that we were homeless). We had hotel reservations for the nights before the 19th and for after the 19th, just not for the 19th itself. Our plan for that day was to hike up Chicken Foot Mountain and see if we could stay the night at the top – a recommendation from many of our contacts in Dali. Hiking 4,000 meters to a Buddhist temple sounded like an opportunity that we simply couldn’t pass up. To our concern, when doing research on the hike we found that there was a discrepancy between sources-some said that we could stay at the top while others said that hostel availability was uncertain. For the sake of adventure, we decided to hike to the top and hope for the best.

Starting off the hike, we weren’t exactly sure what to expect. Some sources said that the hike was 5 hours while others said it would be two and a half. But one thing was certain- the hike was almost entirely stairs. Since most of us live at a low elevation, we knew that a multiple hours of stairs with a noticeable elevation change was going to be a challenge. The hike started off as expected, one set of stairs after another, which each flight becoming increasingly difficult.

After what felt like hours of hiking we had finally reached…. the half way point… Upon reaching this point – we were briefly chased by a pack of monkeys (from which we successfully escaped). This run in with the monkey mob briefly distracted us from that fact that we still had another 2,000 meters to go. At this point in the hike, we had the option to take the cable car to the top. Caleb and I decided to take it so we could get to the top first and see if we could find a hostel to stay the night.

We bought the tickets, which were 40 kuai, and boarded the cable car. The ride to the top was stunning. Looking out into the distance it felt like I could see forever. In the very distance I spotted a small cluster of high rises which I guessed to be Dali.

We quickly reached the top and scurried off the cable car to explore our surroundings. To our surprise, the temperature had significantly dropped- which made sense because our elevation had changed so drastically.

We climbed a few more sets of stairs and reached an area where there were some restaurants and hostels. We peeked inside a few of the rooms and tried to bargain for a good price. We worked it down to 40 kuai per night, which was pretty good, but we still wanted to explore our options.

We climbed for a few more minutes and then reached the very top where there was the famous temple was as well as a hostel. Next to the temple there was the “monk cafeteria” where you could pay 10 kuai for dinner and lunch and 5 kuai for breakfast. We grabbed some “monk food”- which consisted of an all you can eat buffet of various vegetable and rice dishes (and obviously no meat). We sat down next to a monk and to my surprise, he was eager to talk to us. We mentioned that we were looking for a cheap place to stay close to the temple. He told us that he could help us negotiate prices at the hostel adjacent to the temple. With the help of our new friend- we were successfully able to get the price down to 35 kuai per person.

After finishing our meals and booking the rooms, Caleb and I went to go find the other members of the group and bring them to the hostel. We took a few minutes to settle down then went outside to watch the sun set over the mountain range – which made for a breathtaking view.

We said our goodnights then went to go grab some sleep since we planned to wake up at 5:30 to catch the sunrise. The alarm to wake us up was a painful one and we grumbled as we slowly got out of bed. Unfortunately the top of the mountain was stuck in a cloud and there was no visible sunrise.

Then it was time to start the hike down the mountain, which was supposed to be easier since we were going down in elevation. We soon discovered that this was not the case. After about 30 minutes of downhill stairs our legs started to shake and we found that it was easier to keep moving rather than stay still.

Us (and our noodle legs) reached the bottom and then we boarded the bus to head back to the hostel.

All is good here!