As I rode the slick new escalators up the side of the mountain in the Xiamen botanical Gardens, I hated myself a little. Why was I here, supporting the destruction and abuse of this gorgeous natural mountain?
I mean, is there anything lazier than taking an escalator up a mountain? You don’t even have the excuse of covering high elevation quickly, like a cable car. An escalator is slow, cumbersome, and built only for the sake of lethargic people who want to get up a small rise without getting even an ounce of exercise.
And part of me was very upset. I could see the giant boulders that were cut into to make room for the escalators, could imagine all the gorgeous trees, bushes and nature that was plowed over, dug up, replanted with new, probably non-native species made to look nice in photos, not to help the animals in the area to thrive.
And the fact that I had paid money to support it was killing me. I’m not a hardcore outdoorsman but I love meandering through a forest the only sounds being leaves crunching underfoot, or the trees shaking in the breeze. In every park and nature area in China I always make it my mission to get away from the crowds and the paths and find the quiet, untouched areas. (It’s not hard. Usually 5 minutes away from the entrance or scenic spot is totally empty.) So why was I supporting this electronic monstrosity made to make money and not do much else?
At the top there was a path continuing up into the mountains, a low graded, metal walkway built 10+ feet off the ground. It was packed with young people taking pictures, kids running around with their parents or grandparents yelling at them to come back. The path continued for about another kilometers where it ended at a road with a bus stop to take you to other parts of the Botanical Gardens, or back down to the entrance.
And then I realized.
Sure, they destroyed a lot of nature, but they made it more accessible. While I was silently judging all these lazy people around me, truth was I was one of them. I have a genetic disorder, been sick the past few years and these days don’t have enough energy to climb a flight of stairs, much less a mountain.
The only reason I could climb this peak was because they had an escalator. And looking around, the elderly, the toddlers, the parents pushing their babies in strollers, it seemed many people were in the same position. Can’t push a stroller up a wild mountain path can you? Even for people physically able to hike, many probably wouldn’t have attempted it without the ease of the escalator, therefore introducing nature to some who might not have much experience with it.
None of us would have been out in the fresh air, getting sunshine on our faces, enjoying nature if they didn’t have easy access to the top of the mountain. Since they built this electric monstrosity, it actually opened up an area for many of us wouldn’t be physically able to get to ourselves. And isn’t it better to get outside, however you can, then to sit in a mall or go shopping?
And I had a lovely time. Azhi and I did find a small path only a step away from the crowds, yet completely empty and wild. And I did get to hear the leaves shake quietly in the breeze, smell the rich earthy scent of the forest and have a few moments of peace only nature can give you.
So while young Becky (healthy Becky) was appalled at the annihilation of this beautiful nature spot, older Becky appreciated the accessibility—appreciated the city for building this escalator up the mountain, so I could have a nice day out doing what I liked.
So maybe I’m getting old and soft, or being sick has given me more appreciation for making places accessible for all. And I DO appreciate the city, for making such a nice, clean, easy way to get out and about in nature. Now all they have to do is control the parking lot….