Tuesday, March 3, 2009

My near death experience

It has finally come to blogging about the part of my Beijing trip that I have been putting off for a few weeks. This is mainly due to the phobia that I have developed after a particular incident that happened on this day. To date, it still gives me the shivers whenever I think about the unfortunate mishap that befall me. Let me start the story from the beginning. It was the New Year's day of 2009, and we woke up very early at 6am to get ourselves ready for our next adventure. We were all going skiing! Yes, snow-skiing in the mountains, to be exact. A group of 7 of us chartered a van to drive to the northern part of China. The journey would take about 4 hours so we had to make sure we started early. Halfway through the drive, we stopped by a secluded roadside store which sold food for passers-by. The store also had a public restroom next door which was ghastly! There were faeces in almost half of the toilet booths available, so you can imagine the smell they exuded. Yuck!

Anyway, we went back to the restaurant and apparently they sold food buffet style. We just had to pay RMB10 (RM5) per person and we could eat as much as we wanted. Of course, the food choices were very limited. My plate consisted of some mantou, rice, stir-fried beef, vegetables and some cold dishes. Oh, there was also a hard-boiled egg, which I ended up putting in my pocket to keep myself warm. :P Anyway, the food wasn't that bad, maybe because we were all hungry and cold.

RMB10 buffet meal

Moving on with our journey, we saw the magnificent Great Wall of China along the way. It was really amazing at how long this wall is! After hours of driving and I could still spot it. Anyway, our target was at Chong Li county, in the city of Zhangjiakou, north of Beijing. Being in the northern part only made the place colder than what Beijing was already experiencing. The average temperature at that time was -10C to -16C. *gasp*

Map of Hebei province

After a couple more of hours driving, we finally reached our destination at Wan Long Ski Resort in Chong Li County, Zhangjiakou city, Hebei province, China. It's apparently the most beautiful and comprehensive ski resort in China and it's also newly established, being only 3 years old. We were all very excited, but I was more nervous of the cold weather. Look at how I covered myself up, I must have worn numerous layers of clothes underneath, with mittens and a beanie too!

witch at Wan Long

Not long after, Joanne helped us register and get our passes for the day. There were many types of entry passes to be purchased, either 1-hour, 4-hour, 1-day, 1.5-days or longer. We all took the 4-hour passes as we're only beginners. After getting our passes clipped permanently to our jackets (this is to prevent transfer of passes among the skiers), we proceeded to get our equipment consisting of the skis and boots. Wearing the boots really required some skill because they were extremely hard and high, and securing the locks was no easy feat for beginners like me. What's more, walking in those boots was harder than it looked! Basically, your lower feet starting from below the knees up to your toes were all rigid within the boots, so you have to walk like marching, without bending your feet or your toes. Not comfortable at all. Anyway, soon we were all geared up and ready to ski!

Ladies who ski!

Look at all the different slopes that Wan Long ski resort has. I shudder just looking at how steep they were and how deadly this sport could be. Of course, we all started with the beginner's area, which was actually really flat compared to the slopes that you see on this picture below.

All the different slopes

Even though the sun was shining brightly, we were still freezing cold! But that soon changed once we started skiing, because we soon began to sweat. In fact, I thought I was wearing too thick, which didn't help my flexibility.

Beautiful snow

At the beginner's area, one had to ride up an escalator to go to the starting point, before one could ski down. Since it was my first time, I slipped and fell many times! Thank god for the soft snow, so it didn't really hurt when I fell. Only problem was whenever I fell, I had to wait for someone to help me get back up. It was not easy to grasp the skill of skiing because it was all so slippery! Whenever I tried to stand still, I would find myself gliding down without my control. And stopping was not easy too, if you didn't use enough force on your legs. Soon, Joanne saw that we were having a hard time to control ourselves and she engaged 2 instructors for my mom, Chao Jie and me. The instructors only taught us for one hour and fortunately, I learnt how to ski down the beginner's slope without falling anymore. However, my braking skills were still not very good. :(

After completing the brief training, I went up the escalator and skied down several times, only to notice that my mom, Chao Jie and Joanne were not there anymore. So I proceeded to walk back to the base station and saw my mom resting. She told me that Joanne and Chao Jie actually went up the lift to the slopes. I was surprised that they actually dared to go up because they were just beginners with not much practice. And the slopes did look deadly. Anyway, before long, I spotted them skiing down happily. They were telling me that the view from the top was breath-taking, and that it was not that hard to ski down the slopes. In our group, there was another guy called Zhang Ti (Joanne's friend) who's a professional skier and snow-boarder. He convinced me to try skiing down the slopes too, and that he had my back. Deep down, I did have a desire to try that, because it's not like I would go skiing often, and those lifts really looked exciting.

Minutes before my near-death experience


After a few moments of pondering and more convincing from Zhang Ti, I decided to take the lift to go up. Bear in mind that my skill was really still questionable, because I didn't even have confidence of braking properly. Anyway, the ride up the slope took about 5 minutes, and then I was greeted by the most magnificent view of all. Everywhere was white and gorgeous under the sunlight. So we started to ski down from there, and in my first try, I couldn't brake properly and fell down. Only then, I realized that it was so MUCH harder to stand back up in the middle of the slopes. Back in the beginner's area, the area was still not steep so I could stand up and kept myself still. But in the steep slopes, I could hardly stand still without gliding away. It was really difficult. :( I told myself to keep trying, so in my second try, I skied down slowly at first, but because I "smartly" positioned my skis straight (instead of going zig-zag), I was gathering speed even before I could blink my eyes! The speed was accelerating as I went down, and I lost sight of Zhang Ti because I was just too fast. I started to panic and tried to brake by applying the skill I learnt. I was supposed to widen my legs to form the letter '8' in Chinese, but that didn't seem to work and I was just going faster and faster down the slopes! And horror of all horrors, I spotted two persons in front of me in a distance. Thinking of the worst that could happen, I screamed and shouted with all my lungs because I couldn't do anything else, hoping that they would hear me and give way. And just a few seconds later, I felt a big crash, I was somersaulting, my head hit the snow once and I was rolling down before finally stopping. It was true, I had indeed hit into one of the guys in my way.

When reality sank into my senses, I noticed that my firmly-buckled skis were flung off from my boots, and my beanie was flown away, but most importantly, I saw the guy I hit from a distance, crunching with pain. At that moment, my head still hurt with the fall, thank god it wasn't serious enough to be a concussion. My legs and toes were painful and numb. At one point, I thought I had actually broken my toes, because I couldn't feel them inside the boots! I was really worried. Soon, Zhang Ti came by, and asked me how I was. I was in a daze. The guards nearby came to my aid, and I was out of the skis and just wearing the boots. Zhang Ti asked me whether I could walk up back to the top to take the lift down, and I said no. So the guard called for a snow jetski and I was driven down. Needless to say, I became the attraction whenever the jetski passed by anyone, because they'd think that I must have met with some accident to have to come down with the motor. :(

Lift station

When I reached the base station, I was almost limping with the pain in my legs and my inner thigh. I told my mom all about it and she got so worried she almost blamed herself for letting me go up in the first place. Zhang Ti was telling me that I was going too fast that he couldn't even catch up with me. Apparently, I skied down the wrong way, for a beginner, that is. I should have skied down the zig-zag direction, so as to increase the resistance of my skis, and to reduce my speed. But I skied down straight, which was how one would ski to gain full speed! *sigh*

Later on, I found out that the two that I saw in my way were actually Chao Jie and Brother Ma, both also in the same van in the morning! Chao Jie told me she heard me screaming from far so she managed to avoid me in time, but Brother Ma was actually sitting down on the snow fixing his snow board and couldn't move in time. I hit the poor guy in the knees, and he couldn't even walk properly afterwards. :( Fortunately, all skiers who ski in Wan Long are covered with insurance, so Brother Ma was treated at the first-aid center there and was given a recommendation letter so that he could get further treatment from the local hospitals. I felt really bad for what happened, and for spoiling the skiing trip for him. :(( My mom felt terrible as well, because on one hand, she felt guilty for the mishap that happened to Brother Ma, and on the other hand, she kept thinking what if I was the one who was hit by other people. I could be the one ending up with a bad knee. After I came back from Beijing, I checked with Zhang Ti on how Brother Ma was doing and apparently he had to rest at home for at least 2 months! *gasp*

Anyway, the experience was really traumatizing for me. I kept on blaming myself for going up the lift even though I knew I didn't have the skill to ski down yet. But what's done's done, so there was no use crying over spilt milk. Brother Ma was such a dear and didn't even scold me or got angry at me for one bit. In fact, he was such a sport that on the next day, when Zhang Ti and Chao Jie wanted to ski for another 4 hours, he also followed them along, just to sit by the base station and watch. I really hope that he's doing well after a few months of rest now.

As for me, I had tremendous pain on both my legs and my inner thighs. I was given some medicine to rub on by the first-aiders. Thanks to the thick layer of clothes that I was wearing, I didn't suffer from any cuts. Later that night, I went back to our hotel room and massaged the bruises with chinese medicated oil. And look how they turned out to be the next morning! All red!

Bruised legs

That was not the worst! The bruises kept changing colours from red to green to black even and went back to red again. They took about 2 weeks to completely recover.

witch with bruises forcing a smile

Up to this day, whenever I recall the same incident in my head, I couldn't help but wonder, what would have happened to me if Brother Ma wasn't in my way. I mean, I was just in the early part of the slope and there was still a very LONG and STEEP way down. I could have continued skiing down out of control and hit into more victims, or worse, I could die. This was truly the most memorable experience of all in my whole trip to Beijing. Probably in my whole life.


iris said...

well glad you are ok now, next time if u were to go skiing again, rmbr to bring along ur broom

Tom,Dick&Harry said...

ski safe.. huhuhu

ck lam said...

Goodness, look at those legs... thank god you are alright. Hope the pain will subside soon.
Take care.

MisSmall said...

Lol @ Iris about the comment about broom. lol

Glad you're alright, hun. I can imagine how traumatizing the experience must have been! This is precisely why we should never take our safety for granted (which we do most of the time anyway).

foongpc said...

You are very lucky indeed to survive it! What an experience! A near death experience, almost. I guess it's better not to do something if you are not confident of doing it. At least not for skiing down the hill! : )

meifong said...

I have seen too many ppl returning from ski trips with an arm in a sling or a leg in a cast, which has put me off the sport.

J2Kfm said...

wow ...what a stomach-churning experience.
i can imagine the loss of control over one's speed. like as if you're hoping for something to break your fall, but not a tree or a rock.

consider yourself very lucky.

khengsiong said...

Sounds like you were indeed very lucky...

The ski resort never warned beginners to not try the slope? You can sue them and ask for RMB1 million in compensation :P

CY said...

as dangerous as it may seem, i still think it's a great sport!

lesson of the day: avoid peer pressure and take lessons until u are confident with ur skills.

hope u won't swear off this sport.

foongpc said...

Hey! Guess what? I just found your comment on the Songs From A Secret Garden in my blog but at a different post! Read it here.

~Christine~Leng said...

wow.. reading your post really made me felt the excitement as well as the pain. But glad that u r all right now :)

Skiing is fun and scary at the same time rite? haha..
But i still love to ski! the last i went to ski at scotland, the weather was bad.. so can't do much.
Your pics are great!

iamthewitch said...

iris: Haha, you're really funny! The broom, how could I have forgotten?! :P

Tom,Dick&Harry: Thanks, will do. :)

ck lam: Thanks for your concern, CK. Fortunately, the bruises are all gone now, and I'm fine. :)

MisSmall: Oh yea, never take our safety for granted. After that incident, I find myself being more careful, somewhat paranoid even. :/ Not really sure if it's a good thing...

foongpc: Oh I learnt my lesson really well. Hmph.. Never will I attempt something which I am not confident at. :/

meifong: Haha.. I'm glad I didn't have to end up with slings or casts! But I think you SHOULD try at least once! Maybe you'll really like it! :)

J2Kfm: Indeed I am lucky. Thanks for your concern. :)

khengsiong: Haha, I guess they were used to accidents like this happening, and no use warning people if the people are stubborn and insist of going up eh? :)

CY: Haha yes, peer pressure kills! :P Hopefully I'll be brave enough to try again next time and only do so on beginner's grounds. :P

Christine Leng: Thanks for the concern. :) Haha yea I guess it's fun when I don't fall down. I need to have so much MORE practice! :)