Today we resumed our walk after our week-long border run break. We made it about 7 km down the road when we arrived at the Jiayuguan Fort—the symbolic western end of the Great Wall of China. Here we spent a goodly amount of time exploring, wandering, and trying to keep our fingers and toes from freezing.
Two years ago, in the summer, Paul, Vivian, and I came here on a scouting trip. This happens to be one of the first places I’ve traveled to during different times of the year and it was an interesting comparison. The summer months showcases hot temps and snow-covered mountains in the background. Today the weather was hazy in the distance, almost completely obscuring the mountains, and had a surprising chill in the air that was inescapable even while walking and standing in the sun. Snow drifts piled low and hard-packed from the wind that blows along this flat, wide valley filled every ledge and corner of the fort. Some roof tops held on to this accumulation while most had warmed and melted away. Another big difference was the lack of tourists and amenities offered. Even the near by village—usually filled with restaurants to accommodate the traveling hordes—had closed their doors for the season. Going to a places during its most beautiful time of year means you won't be the only one to think this. Also, going somewhere during its 'off' season means you might miss part of what makes the place so great--albeit with a unique perspective of the side most don't see. You choose what's right for you.
Despite getting the chance to visit this amazing site again—and still being awed by it—, today was a bit of a mess. It started with a communication error that we could have solved by calling ahead and asking if we could walk through the fort with our trailers to recreate the historical significance of other silk road caravans. This soaked up a good two hours before we cut out losses and went in trailerless to see the fort. The fort itself soaked up another five hours. At this point we contemplated the upcoming Spring Festival (Chinese New Year) and wondered about accommodation availability and other arrangements that might become difficult if not down right impossible. And with winter coming on strong, we figured it best to seek a warm shelter early in the day for us to sort out these issues sooner rather than later.
So here we are, at the end of our first day back on the road, and we find ourselves back at the hostel we left from this morning. Not sure if today was a blessing in disguise, but it makes me feel better to think it was.
Distance: 24 km
Forward progress: 0 km
Total: 1,575 km
End: Jiayuguan (嘉峪关) - Herdman’s hostel
Written by Pat