Cold. Weary from the weeks laboring through the mountains, we “Sluiped” out of our annex at the back of the farmer’s home, our refuge from the merciless winter that has now gripped the area. Sleeping along the way in tents has now become a bit risky as we have to protect ourselves from the cold and wind. Across the square was a little eatery that we were heading to for breakfast. It was freezing, dark ominous clouds were swirling around the mountain peaks, I glanced up at them, shaking my head to myself, its just getting worse by the day .Braam nudged me and pointed out a pig, being lead across the square on a leash, seemed a bit weird and out of place, but its China things are sometimes different. We stumbled on like 2 Michelin men puffed up in all our gear.
The brisk trip across the square had been like a cold shower, now awake and hungry we entered the warm little cabin, the aromas of fresh steamed bread and the distinctive smell of rice porage greeted us. Its always a matter of seconds and we tuck into the meal, loading up for the day ahead (there was a weird commotion going on outside, we looked at each other, but the crew seemed not to be fazed, so we kept quiet) the steaming green tea seems to warm you from the inside, its aromatic flavor bringing a warm flush to your face. Breakfast, it always a rush to finish, get out and focus on the day ahead.
The clouds were now blacker than before, the mountain peaks, screened by a curtain of grey thick fog hiding the wall and our entry point. We trundled back across the square, constantly looking up the mountains, discussing the conditions we would have to face for the day. Hans was doing his morning Austrian snow sniff in the wind, “I think maybe today it comes” he said.
Something had caught my eye, I stopped and turned. It was quite a shock at first, here lay our pig, decapitated and gutted, being feverishly cut up by a group of smiling villagers, offering us the opportunity to purchase some of the delicacies being cleaned and prepared. A steaming cauldron of water, bubbling on an open coal fire was next to the carcass. The entrails were being boiled in this. “Nice intestine stew to start the day” , “Sheeew” a bit early for Me.! Declining the offer we headed for the hills.
The wind was icy burning my face; we slowly slogged up the zig – zag path leading to the watch tower, our access point to the wall. I was suddenly stopped as both my eyes were stung by what I thought was blowing sand, turning and rubbing them with my back to the wind, I opened my eyes again, I could see a sort of sleet and little ice crystals blowing in the wind. The wind was now swirling and dying down, its strength subsiding. With this came large snow flakes. Being a child of Africa this was really quite exciting for me and new to me . Caught right in the middle of a snow storm!
I stood still, with both my palms facing upwards, watching the large snowflakes gliding down and landing on the black surface of my gloves, it totally fascinated me as the flakes would land on top of each other and pile up like a candy floss tower, slowly building in the palm of my hands. The snow was falling harder now, I could hear the pitter –patter as it landed on my rain suit, slowly joining into large wads of powder snow,sliding off onto the ground, I had that urge to build a snowball and lob it at Braam as he came steaming up to me , wondering what I was so engrossed in. It was so beautiful to see this dry brown barren landscape slowly being turned into an artist’s canvas as the snow changed the colors, textures and feel of the whole area, softening it, brushing it with strokes of liquid silk.