Suitcase and World: The Overhanging Great Wall.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Overhanging Great Wall.

After our visit to Jiayuguan Fortress, it was off to climb a section of the Great Wall. The last time I was on the Great Wall, I climbed the Simitai section which was partially reconstructed.   Today, I walked a comparatively shorter section known as the Overhanging Great Wall, that was pretty much fully reconstructed.

Located about 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) northwest of Jiayuguan Pass, the Overhanging Great Wall is an important part of the defense network of Jiayuguan. It was built in the year 1539- 1540 AD during the Ming Dynasty to strengthen the defensive capability of the Jiayuguan area - protecting water resources and acting as a northern lookout point.

Built on the eastern slope of Black Mountain, the Overhanging Great Wall not visible to anyone coming from west to east. Enemies thought they could enter inner China from here, the Black Mountain Canyon, as long as they rounded the Jiayuguan Pass. However, they were totally mistaken. After crossing over the mountain, they were faced with a wall that proved very difficult to pass over.

Viewed from a distance, the Overhanging Great Wall appears very like a dragon overhanging the slope, hence the name. It was built using rammed earth and consists of the main path, battlements and three observation posts. Originally, it measured 1.5 kilometers (0.9 mile) in length. However, due to natural disasters and human destruction, only 750 meters (820 yards) remain.

While all four of us started out together, Yim and Sal soon spurted ahead of Mal and I.

Even I took it at a slow pace, it was still faster than Mal so I soon was climbing on my own. The section at the beginning was relatively flat but by mid section it was steep. I took as many breaks as needed to catch my breath. Unfortunately, I never lingered long as the surrounding views were not all that nice.

There were only two turrets to climb up to versus the 12 that I had to face at Simitai.

The view was not always a nice one. I think is the same industrial complex that I saw from Jiayuguan Fortress.

The early section of the wall was steep!  I found myself step in step with a fellow Chinese tourist.  Even though we never exchanged a word, I somehow felt like we were encouraging each other to go forward.  We stopped at the same spots and pretty much resumed walking at the same time.  She kept me going!

I don't know if the steps were original or not but they were well worn!

Way in the distance, there stood a small pavilion atop a hill.  There was a lone person there.  I wondered how he got up there!

After reaching the 2nd turret, a path that was not part of the wall, led back down to where I had started my ascent.

On the other side of the turret was  a chain rope barrier.

Where you can hang locks, there will be locks.  I think it all started in with Paris's Pont des Arts but I now see them all over the world.

The one cool thing is that you do see differences in the lock styles from one country to the next.  This is one is distinctly Chinese.

It was a quick walk down.

At the bottom of the path, I was greeted by a group of sculptures recreating a camel caravan, no doubt in reference to the countless ones that crossed this region in the days of the Silk Road.

By the time I reached bottom, Cathy was there waiting. A few minutes later, Yim arrived followed by Sal. Shortly after that, we caught sight of Mal. I am so incredibly proud of her for having made it up and down the wall. She has a lot of self doubt that she can do something but it seems like once she puts her mind to it, her stubbornness to not give up pushes her through. You go girl!

We all sat under the shade of a canopy area that was filled with recliners and enjoyed refreshing drinks. We were joined by a young couple - he from Shanghai and she from Hong Kong, whom Mal apparently had crossed paths with when she was on the wall. He had helped her climb up a steep step or two and apparently, well after they had walked past her, had shouted back to her that she wasn't slow and to take care walking. Mal is always apologizing to others that she is slow. I say no need to apologize for whatever pace you choose to walk at. Faster walkers will always just pass you.

By the time we left the wall, it was very late in the afternoon - time to check into our hotel. Like the one we were in the Zhangye, this one was also what I would describe as a Chinese class tourist hotel. They typically have very small lobbies - just enough space to accommodate the registration desk. Truly nothing fancy. The room was modern and comfortable. I immediately turned on the air conditioner and tried to do the room card hack but this one was designed to read what I would guess is a chip embedded inside the card because we tried using Mal's drver's license as well as one of my credit cards and neither worked. Oh well. I just hope we can bring down the room temp to a comfortable sleeping level when we return from dinner.

Yim and Sal gave us a few minutes to settle in and freshen up before we headed back out in search of the hotspot restaurant recommended by the receptionist. Cathy had written down the name of the place in Chinese so we can show someone in case we need directing as we walked along.

We weren't exactly sure which direction to walk in as we headed out of the hotel so we let instinct guide us. We had to cross the most insane set of crosswalks - we've learned to be careful and pedestrians do not have the right of way here. We passed by a very nice looking restaurant. I saw folks eating hotpot. The name of the place did not match what we had on paper so we decided to walk on. Not seeing anything else that looked like a hotpot place, we decided to turn around and go back to the nice looking restaurant. It was packed to the brim with diners. In fact, we had to take a ticket and wait. While we waited, sitting on small plastic stools outside the front entrance, one of the restaurant's services came by and brought us a plat of boiled mushrooms and sunflower seeds to munch on. Another server came by with paper cups - offering us hot water.

I think we waited for about a half hour or so before we got our table.

The next challenge was to order. We basically had to tick off items on a pick list. Usual process. Except of course, the pick list was entirely in Chinese and the kind waitress who was our server struggled to explain things to Sal and Yim, the only two who can remotely speak Mandarin. Finally, a young man came along. I think he saw us all struggling. I presumed he was the manager. 

His proposal was for the waitress to just pick out 8 items for us - some beef, some veggies, some tofu, and some mushrooms.

Yim, Mal, and I each ordered bowls of clear soup while Sal, the chili head went for a bowl of spicy soup. We each fired up our burners when our bowls of soup arrived. We then also each filled up our condiment bowls. Poor Sal. Her bowl of soup turned out to be especially spicy and she needed to have her soup diluted several times so the heat level could be brought down to a more bearable level. We all enjoyed our meal and what looked like an insane amount of raw ingredients was pretty much eaten down to nothing! Yim and Sal are especially hearty eaters! I used to be until I started getting old. Damn that aging thing!

After dinner, we strolled back to the hotel and called it a night. Tomorrow we are heading to Dunhuang. I cannot wait to see the dunes and Crescent Lake!!  It will be an early 8a departure and a long 5 hour drive. Along the way, we'll stop and visit the Yulin Grottoes.

Goodnight from Jiaguyuan!