Remember when I went to the Great Wall of China a few weeks ago? If you recall, I was so disappointed at how crowded and touristy it was that I thought I would weep. Well, last week I decided that I couldn’t live with myself if I passed up my only chance to see the Great Wall in all of its rustic beauty. I made a reservation to travel with a small group to a remote area of the Great Wall called Jiankou, where few people go and certainly no tourists! You’ll see why in a moment :)
But let’s back up a little, shall we? This past Saturday morning, I woke up at 5 am to get ready for my 6:15 am pickup outside the campus gates. I’ve never seen the University campus so empty. Usually it’s full of chattering people, swerving cars, and a ton of bikes.
Two hours after pickup, our tiny group arrived at the Jiankou section of the Great Wall and were greeted with these signs:
What an invitation, huh? This section of the Wall isn’t actually closed to visitors right now. Jiankou was closed in 2004 to allow restoration of the Wall so that it could become a greater tourist attraction. The restorers gave up about a year later because Jiankou is too remote and access is too difficult. Better for me, I say. As you’ll see, this climb is NO JOKE. For those of you who are interested in visiting this section of the Wall, be aware that the hike is long and strenuous. I loved hiking Jiankou because I’m very physically active and in good shape – I’m not trying to brag, I just want to impress upon you the difficulty of this hike so you don’t let the mountain defeat you (as has happened to many people our tour guide has led).
As usual, I’m going to let the pictures speak for themselves with few words to mar their beauty. I have a lot of pictures, so if you’re not interested in the Great Wall, scroll down to the end of the post for gorgeous pictures of delicious food. I promise, they’re good :)
This section of the Wall was built with limestone. Other sections were built with sandstone, which erodes much faster.
Many centuries ago (6.5, to be exact), the Chinese did not have modern mortar to connect their bricks. They used another substance in abundant supply. Can you guess what it is?
Rice! The Chinese used rice mixed with other substances to create a mortar for the Great Wall. This stuff is strong – it feels just like rock and has obviously lasted for centuries.
These nameless flowers bloom only in mid-June and fill the air with a wonderful lilac-type scent. Mmm.
Yes, we really did climb up here!
This particular section is called “Heaven’s Ladder” or “Sky Stair” – a particularly tough, steep climb, but it’s nothing that a Jessie can’t handle!
At the top!
A drainage stone:
Pictures speak louder than words.
Food? Yes, please! After our six-hour hike/climb/rappel, our guide brought us to one of many little family-owned restaurants in the area to enjoy some fresh trout and home-cooked meals. The owners literally caught the trout right before cooking. Can’t get any fresher than that.
Feast your eyes on this meal:
Boiled peanuts and soybeans:
Remember this vegetable? It’s the same wild vegetable that our group ate at the Hakka restaurant in my first China post. I asked the cook what it was – apparently it doesn’t have a name, it’s just “wild vegetable” and it is picked from trees (? not sure about that last part, I don’t think I quite understood what was said). The “wild vegetable” was just as delicious this time :)
Black fungus with carrots and green onion:
Spicy tofu (with just the right amount of spice!):
Veggie-egg omelet, courtesy of the hens outside:
Potatoes and niu rou (beef):
The trout! Can’t get any better than fresh caught.
Every single dish was superb beyond words. The lovely woman who cooks for the restaurant really knows how to cook. Keep in mind that all these dishes were for four people. That’s right, FOUR. Needless to say, we didn’t finish all this delicious food, but I ate my share and more :)
I had such a wonderful day, I wish I could experience it again. I’m so happy to share this special day with all of you, a day that I will always remember. Until next time, gan bei and zai jian!