The Steps of Huangshan

        I was so excited about the mountain that I'm actually out of bed with time to spare before the bus there leaves. A nap/trip, taxi, luggage storage, and false start wandering in the wrong direction later, I'm on the mountain.
        /Stairmaster. Literally, the trail is concrete steps 99% of the time. Any non-flat surfact is up or down stone ledges seemingly meant for feet smaller than mine. It's certainly worth feeling the burn: over the course of ~12 miles, I experience mountain-filled vistas in every direction. They were so nice that I barely noticed the stares of frequent tourists as I hurried by shirtless on my way back.
        What type of luggage storage place arbitrarily closes at 4:30? The one I used, apparently. Fortunately, my cab driver sufficiently gouged me for the fare on the ride to town that he calls and drives me to the owner's house to get the keys. I began to get a little angry with China.
        An old lady best described as the local wicked old witch thinks it's hilarious that I'm trying to get a bus from Tankgou (sp) to Tunxi; I get angrier with China. She (the woman, not China) literally stood next to me cackling as I tried to point at Chinese in my Let's Go to figure out if I've missed the last bus of the night. I finally resorted to paying 105 yen (~$15) for a cab. I think it'll be going straight to the airport, but when he stops and tries to pick up another fare I get a bit nervous. But we do end up at the airport, him angry that our negotiated fare is like 50 yuan less than his meter says and me relieved to be at the airport with plenty of time. After a tasty seafood stew served over a burner called a hotpot and a smooth on-time flight, I'm calming down and regaining comfort with China.
        But then, in Guangzhou, all deals are off. I cannot get what I want most at that moment: to get to Hong Kong. It's only ~10:30 pm, but it seems all trains for the day are done. I literally sneak onto a sold-out bus and pretend I'm asleep, but I'm found out when the last man on doesn't have a seat, they don't buy my excuse that I lost my ticket, and won't let me stand for the ride. I contemplate taking a cab, but decide against that pricey endeavor because I'd be seeing red if I do and then find the Shenzen-Hong Kong border crossing has already closed.
        The hostel's dorm rooms are actually full, so I sleep, pissed off, along with 50+ fellow early-morning travelers: outside the bus station. My particular spot is halfway down the steps to the subway, allowing me to achieve the subterranean warmth while hopefully avoiding the rats I saw at the bottom. Not the first time I've slept outside, but my cold concrete mattress may well be the least comfortable.

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