August 20th; 259km; Zhangye, GS to Jiayuguan, GS
Finally some good news. Amy was feeling much better as it was clear the rest had done its job. The roads were really nice and easy today too, even without getting on the expressway as they were well paved, flat and straight. It’s interesting now as you can tell whenever you approach a town because it’ll be within the only patch of trees anywhere on the horizon.
We crossed paths with another motorcycle traveler today, a Chinese guy named Eddie from Chengdu, Sichuan who had nearly perfect English and was traveling on a small 150cc Shineray (Chinese brand) dirt-bike. We exchanged information on our trips, where we had gone and where we were going. He seemed particularly surprised that foreigners would be even allowed at all to do ride around China on a motorcycle. He also gave us some great route suggestions for when we head down Sichuan province after Tibet and Qinghai.
Jiayuguan, our goal for the day, is home to the Western terminus of the Ming era Great Wall. This was a fun milestone for us as we had passed the eastern terminus over in Dandong nearly a month previous. It was also a very well preserved section of wall that used to be an important military outpost due to its strategic position between to a mountain range and river.
Re-Photographing The Great Wall
With the good roads we were able to make good time into the main city, enough to find a hotel (we had to try a few until finding one that accepted foreigners) and head out to the wall. Actually the most interesting bit by far, since it was pretty built up complete with local kids playing as pretend soldiers, was an exhibit created by an Englishman William Lindsay and his organization, “Friends of the Great Wall.” The exhibit was a “re-photographing” of various sections of the wall to demonstrate the level of both decay and quality of preservation of various sections. So there would be a recent photo from the past 10 years of a section and Lindsay had managed to find nearly identical photos from as far back as 100 years ago. The pairings would also come with stories telling the backgrounds of the photographers and under what circumstances the photos had been taken. One particularly interesting story was with a picture of a section that had previously been been along a river but the river had recently been filled in for a highway and the section of wall was not much more than a grass covered mound. The photo had only been identified thanks to the help of a local 90 year old man who recognized the area. Even better though is that he may even been in the picture himself as there is a boy that can be seen playing next to the water that is about the same age as the old man would have been at the time the photo was taken!
One Of Our Inspirations
This exhibit carried even more meaning for Amy and I since William Lindsay was at least part of our inspiration for the Great Ride of China. We were already thinking of the idea when in 2012 we went to go see a talk by William Lindsay about his trek from east to west on the Great Wall in 1987, the first foreigner to traverse the entire span of the wall, an epic China adventure that really helped to light a fire under us wanting to have an adventure of our own. It was really great to (unexpectedly) see the exhibit that had talked about during the presentation on his personal history with China.
After looking through the exhibit and walking around the wall, it was time to head back to the hotel. Unfortunately it was now my turn to start feeling a little run down as I could feel a bit of a cough coming on. So back for a quick dinner and then our room to try and get some sleep!