Even with my eyes closed I could feel it. An emptiness of everything and a simultaneous filling of nothing. Walking as far as the edge goes, I opened my arms to embrace the nothing and the everything. The breeze kissed my cheeks and messed up my hair. With the Tianmen Mountain behind me, saying I was walking on top of it wasn’t quite the truth. In fact, I was following a path built on the cliff face of the mountain, with metal railing painted and sculptured to look like wood.
At 1400 meters high, initially it felt like walking on the clouds, but when they disappeared, the houses were like dots at the bottom of the mountain and the roads were like fine lines. The earth was people-less, and I imagined that someone from those houses would be thinking that the mountain was people free too. This emptiness in-between us was breathtaking, mouth-dropping and spirit lifting.
I am not known to be scared of heights, but every so often, the sight of nothingness underneath us was overwhelming. It evoked a feeling of fear which I had to fight against. Fear is good, it makes you feel alive. I found myself thinking like a bird when wandering in it’s nest with the best view over the world. Birds fly this high right?! If I was a bird, I would.
The path followed the rugs of the mountain and we followed the path. Until we saw a crowd. The crowd was queuing to walk on the glass platform, known as the glass skywalk. I had heard of this years ago on the news back in Portugal when it first opened. The anticipation holding hands with excitement led me here but sadly it was nothing like I had imagined (or the pictures I had seen). There was no control on the amount of people that could walk at the same time on the glass path. We were practically jammed to get in and jammed until we were out. There was no physical space for the desired feeling of adventure.
The way down the mountain was an adventure on it’s own divided in 3 different phases. First the tunnel escalator with over 10 segments! If I knew it was so long I would have started counting from the beginning, but I didn’t start the count until the reality of another escalator struck me out of the clouds, where my dreamy head was still living. For a few moments I thought we were going to descend the whole mountain this way, thankfully not. We landed right underneath the natural hole carved in the mountain wall.
So we entered the second phase, the steep “Stairway to Heaven’s Gate”. Carefully measuring our steps (you don’t want to miss one here) and praying for the people behind us would be doing the same, we made our way to the bottom safely. Phew! The further we got away from the hole, the bigger it became. Like a camera lens, I had to zoom out to perceive the grandiosity of the “Heaven’s Gate”. Many people climb it, some even with children on their backs, for religious beliefs.
Finally we hopped on the bus for the final phase, a road with 99 curves. The thought of it made me more sick than the actual drive, counting down from 99, we took each curve as a big achievement on this journey.
When I got to the bottom, I couldn’t look back at the Tianmen Mountain the same way as this morning. I had to get to the top of the mountain to grasp the size of the emptiness in between us and with it grew a feeling of respect and admiration. Its size hadn’t changed but it looked bigger and people-less, just like I thought earlier. So much has changed, not the mountain, but me. After all… moments earlier I was walking in the sky.