It is raining and everything in our bags is soaked and our backpack covers are soaked and our backpacks are soaked and our rain jackets are soaked and our pants are soaked and our rain jackets don’t work and the bamboo grass we walk through is higher than our heads and soaked and when it rubs against us it soaks us in the ways that the rain cannot and our feet are soaked like swimming pools and our jackets are covered in pieces of plant from the bamboo grass which you cannot even see the trail though.
So that when we see the fabled Piaodan Hut, we rejoice and duck into it as quickly as we can. This is the human need for shelter.
The hut is two giant sheets of corrugated metal perched on rusty beams planted in the ground. The floor is covered in an uneven patchwork of two or three dirty tarps and a discarded, wet sleeping bag. A bag of old food hangs from one of the strings tied between the hut’s supports. There are wet spots on the topmost tarps; the roof leaks.
We stand at the door with our muddy boots and wet clothes. We need to take them off and get in our sleeping bags to warm up. We hesitate. It is barely the afternoon. If we stop for the day it means stopping here. Sleeping here. Spending the next sixteen hours in this shelter the size of a pitcher’s mound.
We look at the dirty hut. We look at the rain.
We begin to take our boots off and hang up our clothes and expose our bodies to the seeping cold.
Dinner at four. Sleep at five-thirty. Breakfast at three in the morning.