Early morning whanau bonding

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Friday morning we were up at ridiculous o’clock, all coughing and spluttering because Nick brought a cold home from Australia and shared it with all of us (thanks Blondie!). Somehow we managed to get all bundled up to brave the cold outside. And at 6am, it was a bright but chilly -4 degrees Celsius.
Oimg_2868utside, it was eerily quiet. A spell which was quickly broken by these crazy, bundled up foreigners. As we are always prone to being when we are back together, we are IDIOTS! Between Nick and Kimberley running their own comedy commentary, and Mum poking at Dad on the train like a bored kid, the few locals that were up at that hour definitely looked at us sideways.

Getting off the train at Xiamafang Metro station, it was even colder out of the city, away from the many buildings that provided a little shelter from the icy wind that was whipping up Nanjing that morning. “It’s frost” Dad exclaimed, and it sure was! The grass was crunchy underfoot and the bushes looked like they had been dusted with powdered sugar overnight. There were only a few people around, an oddity in Nanjing, and it was eerily beautiful. And effing cold!!!

Halfway up the road, Mum decided she wanted to catch a bus up the rest of the way. Which was hilarious because we were actually almost as far as the buses can go, so it was a very short bus ride!

Of course, everything was closed. For those of you that have never been to Dr. Sun Yat-sen’s Mausoleum (known as “Zhongshan Ling” or “中山陵” to the Chinese), there are a lot of shops, eateries, cafe’s and fast food joints about 2/3’s of the way up. And its usually teeming with people, shopping, walking, buying and perusing. Last time, we really had to fight our way through the crowd. Not this time! Everything was shut. We totally had the run of the place. Nick wished he had brought his skateboard up. And it was absolutely fascinating to see how dead it was!  We saw two worker women, and they were quite obviously surprised to see us. It looked like they were on their way to work when we surprised them and they began babbling at us in Chinese (I am sure they were telling us we were crazy!). They hooted with laughter when I said “Zaoshang hao!” (“Good morning!”)

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We plodded on. And it was still cold. And it was stunningly beautiful. The paths that we had avoided last time we were up there were totally empty and we certainly made the most of it! We were cold and snotty and coughing up a storm, but nothing could dampen the amazing view of the early morning through the trees, with gorgeous birds twittering and flittering everywhere, and very plump, contented looking ‘stray’ dogs trotting around us. It was a bizarre feeling, remembering that only a few months ago, we were in this exact same spot, only you had to hustle for space enough to move and you weren’t sure if the sweat that was sticky on your arm was yours or someone else’s! This trip could not have been more different. Not least because Mum was super proud to finally be showing off her favourite place in Nanjing to both of her babies, as she calls us.

Walking up the big concrete path lined with tree’s up to the formal gates, where the stairs begin, we realised the gates were shut… Which wasn’t a good sign. Luckily, Nick managed to communicate using hand signals with the old guy doing Tai Chi at the gate (after joining in with him at the very end of his Tai Chi routine, which was so cool to watch!) and established that the gates would open at 8:30am. A fact that Mum confirmed by reading the information on a sign nearby. Lucky we didn’t get up earlier to try to catch the sunrise! There were also workers waiting, with bowls of hard boiled eggs, polystyrene packs filled with soft drinks and other stock items. We watched them interact with other workers in a little building off to the side of the gate.  “I wonder if they have instant noodles?” I thought out loud. Mum was keen, since she was sitting on the bottom steps literally freezing her ass off, despite Nick’s polar fleece under her bum. So Dad, Nick and I wandered over. Of course they had instant noodles!

Instant noodles are EVERYWHERE and never have we been so glad to see the horrid things like we were then! Even Kimbo was quite happy to drink the ‘soup’, even as she told Mum off for how unhealthy they are. We still had just over thirty minutes to kill (and somehow manage now to freeze!) so Nick jumped up and decided to teach Kimbo how to do this funny ankle tap dance thing. Now, Nick gets stares here in China at the best of times. A tall, blonde foreigner, usually wearing toe shoes (Vibram Fivefingers) and now he has a beard, it’s even worse. Well, add harem pants on a below zero morning,  and picture him jumping around with my sister and her high pitched laugh… Well, needless to say, ALL eyes were on them! His funny ankle tapping game was great for a) killing time IMG_1181b) co-ordination and c) circulation! A sentiment obviously shared by a Chinese lady who came along and wanted to join in! Which was great. Nick showed her the basic steps, before going back to ankle tapping with Kimbo and leaving her and I to ankle tap and laugh when one of us got it wrong! It was great fun, before she ran off when the gates opened to let the workers in at 8am. We got up hoping we could sneak in too… Hahaha NOPE!

When they finally did let us in, we could smell the food that was wafting through the gates. And we were bowled away again at how few people there were. Instead of the hustle and bustle all the way up, there were only a smattering of figures on the stairs as we made our way up. Nick and Kimbo ran off to be the first ones to reach the top. Dad and Mum followed and of course I was waaaaaay behind them, stopping every now and then to marvel at… Well, EVERYTHING! Like the birds that would come check us out, about the size of crows with huge fanned out tails. Like the two big tripod drums that I didn’t even see last time we were up here. Like taking photos of Nick as he bounded up the stairs like the Energizer Bunny, and of Mum as she plodded up the stairs. From the look of some of the workers, half running up the stairs and reaching the top only to half run down, it looked like they used this as their morning exercise routine. And what an amazing morning exercise routine it was!

The view from the top was stunning. We didn’t expect anything less. But we didn’t really think about how few people there would be and the impact it would have on what we saw from the top. It was a stunningly clear day. And of course, my wonderful husband was armed with his selfie stick, and no matter how much flack we gave him, he was insistent on getting some awesome shots. Oh how our family photo’s have changed for the better since Blondie became a part of our family!

We had a nosy through the Mausoleum, with no hustle and bustle around us this time! After which Kimbo promptly decided she was hungry. So we decided to head back down and find some kai (food). As we got to the bottom of the stairs, the crowds started to pour in through the gates. There were a couple of groups of older people, the men wearing white hats and the women wearing headscarves on their heads. They spotted Nick and they were smitten! The men all swarmed around him, wanting to take photos with him. We watched on laughing, until karma decided to even out the odds… The women spotted Mum, Kimbo and I and proceeded to do the same to us! I swear we posed for about twenty photo’s! While Dad hid in a corner and got away photo free. Typical!

It was a little bit warmer as we made our way down the mountain. And we giggled about how many people were about compared to when we were on our way up. We were definitely more awake than we were when we were walking up! Albeit starving. So we stopped into the first food place we saw that was actually open. Which was… KFC. A quick coffee and chips later, we were feeling more adventurous. I spied a little stall/shop that was cooking roti-style flat bread wraps. Ummmm delicious, they were! Kimbo spied a Paul Frank drink bottle in a drink bottle vending machine that she fancied. So we had fun figuring out how to work the vending machine with the ‘help’ of a lady who spoke as much English as we do Chinese!

We all decided that getting up early was definitely worth it, as much as we all HATED the getting up part. Between my phone, Nick’s selfie stick and Mum’s phone, we have SO many photo’s! Maybe from the photo’s I have shared, you can see what a crazy, mad, tired, awesome time we had getting up early to traipse up Zhongshan mountain! Ah whanau times!

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