Today we decided to do stretch out our hiking legs, so we covered ourself in suntan lotion and set off on a 14 km (8.7 mi) hike. Our destination was Deer Turn Park. It was supposed to be a 10 km hike, but on the way back, I got us lost and going down the wrong road for 2km before we figured out where we were (note to remember, always: I am Ryoga!).

There were actually deer at Deer Turn Park, which surprised Amber, who knew more about the story behind it than I did; however, they were caged and unnatural deer. The antlers of the bucks had been sawed off and apparently cauterized, and their hides looked horrible. And it’s so strange to see deer that aren’t spooked by people walking around next to them.

I don’t think they are treated very well, but I don’t know.

At the park, Amber and I both decided the sun tan lotion was not doing a good enough job. I bought a pair of sunglasses. They were selling straw comboy hats with the word “MARLBORO” printed on the hat band. This was obviously supposed to be some sort of incentive to buy them (even though they were bootleg). We bought them, but only with Amber’s assurances that “The ‘Marlboro’ will probably fade off pretty quickly.”

This makes for the first time I’ve worn a cowboy hat in something like ten or twelve years, and the first time in twenty years or so for Amber.

Damn sun, turning me into a walking cigarette advertisement cowboy hat wearer.

Oh well, that’s life.

On a matter of principle, we turned down all taxi rides both on the way there and back. The taxi drivers would look at us like we were crazy, and would drive along aside us for about 30 meters, yelling out their window at us, “Hello!”, “TAXI!”, or “One!”(the price of the taxi, which actually would be a good rate, if they weren’t lying).

My personal favorite were the guys on the motorcyles that would stop and start patting the seat behind them on the bike, as if : A) Either Amber or I were going to leave the other behind. B) We could all three go riding down a mountain road on a motorcycle.

There was also another guy, in an unmarked car, “I work for the Sanya Travel Service. I just finished dropping off some Americans at the Scuba Diving park. I can help you.”

S’hya right… (word to the wise, if you come to China, turn down all offers for help from friendly strangers*** unless you REALLY need help. Ride only in city taxis with the rate clearly marked on the window…insist they run the meter…the more aggressive someone is in trying to ‘help’ you, the more likely it is that he or she is a hustler….they might just charge you an obscenely high rate for a ‘favor’, or they may rob you, who knows…)…

It was a nice hike. This island is gorgeous, and Amber and I playfully discussed coming back next winter and simply hiking across the island, from Sanya to Haikou (a task roughly equivalent to walking across one of the small to medium-small states). Based on the time we made today (8.7 miles, most of it uphill at a fairly steep slope, in 4 hours), we figure we could hike across the island in 10-20 days.

It seems like, outside of the cities, there is nothing but forest. From the top of the mountain (Deer Turn Park is a small mountain), you can see all of Sanya, and beyond it, woodland. The tourist map of the island says that 90% of the island is still undeveloped, which sure sounds nice. We got some wonderful pictures, but, of course, we don’t have a cable to get them out. So, I will upload them when I can get them off the camera.

We intend to buy more hiking gear before May Day, and go to “Three Beaches National Park” ( *****) for our May Day vacation. It is a camping site at a 200 sq km nature reserve a few provinces west of our home. There we will test out our equipment and see how we can handle multi-day hikes.

And, once again, I am having fantasies of taking 6 months and hiking the 2,000+ mile Appalacian Trail from Georgia to Maine when I finally go home to America.

*** The exception is translation. Plenty of students are simply excited to use their English lessons for something and will gladly translate what some merchant is saying if they happen to be line with you. But, if someone offers to help you in some way that actually requires them to exert any form of effort, they are a hustler. 100%.

***** Only the English website is on a free server. The Chinese has a real server (which links back to the English one), so I feel a bit safer about it. We also figure there isn’t much there to lie about. As long as there IS a government nature reserve there, and we CAN camp on it, then we don’t really care much what these people promise or don’t promise.

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06 February 2005