Today started slow after yesterdays late night. Traveling a rural mountain road through a picturesque valley lined with greens of the pines and the oranges of the (larch?) with a river cutting straight through. (Larch?) are a favorite tree family of mine as they defy classical classification as trees with cones that lose their needles each year, a deciduous conifer. It was another beautiful mountain day of clear views all around with peaks in every direction. The hill or mountain debate quickly ended yesterday when we hiked over the first one, since then we have all referred to them as mountains. We climbed a short but steep one today and celebrated every mini summit we passed over.
The day felt slow but passed quickly as I wondered how long it would be after this section of southern Gansu till we are again on such quiet rural roads with beautiful scenes in every direction,
or have such fresh air.
We learned that the men with the red vests are the rangers of the mountain range which is most definitely a protected area. We asked two rangers if we would be allowed to camp anywhere and learned that we definitely couldn’t. When it came time to find a place to sleep for the night, so we asked around the village and were directed to a concrete slab across from a convenience store. We asked if would could instead set up in the tiny dirt lot next to the store but the owner insisted the hard cold concrete would be much nicer. We often find a hang up in communication coming from locals assuming what will be nicer, but not really understanding what we are doing. As we started cooking dinner and doing chores on the street at the entrance of town a crowd slowly built. They moved between the three of us checking out me sorting through photos from the day, teaching Paul Chinese Chess, and micro managing Pat cooking dinner. It was enjoyable to spend the evening with them, though as the sun and the temperature quickly dropped, everyone vanished and the solar streets lights turned on. I even put socks and long underwear bottoms on for the first evening of the trip. As I write this now, sitting on a concrete driveway of an abandoned home with a full moon slowly rising above the mountainside, we are being invited in by people….
We are currently finishing a late night of chores now after having played mahjong (a Chinese game) with half the village, although we suspect many may have been from nearby villages. We were
offered two storage rooms with beds in the town's hospital. In the big room was seemingly the villages mahjong table. As soon as Paul and Pat said we would stay there everyone began to whip out
there phones and call others to tell them we were staying there. We don’t know how many different people came into this room tonight over the course of a couple hours, but I suspect at least
upwards of 20. As we picked up and discarded tiles, strategy gained from being corrected by onlookers as we made poor moves, people continually cycled in and out of the room. I can’t say that we
truly understood the game by the end of the night but we definitely understand more than we did when we started. What really stood out was that no one tried to teach us how to play or explain
anything, they simply began the game and corrected us when we broke rules.
Distance: 20 km
Total Distance: 348 km
End: Shiju Cun storage room in hospital
Written by Timb