Well, we’ve rambled our way across our final jurisdictions, Hebei province and Beijing municipality. These eastern areas we hiked through were different in many ways from the western provinces – more populous, greener, much more mountainous. But the overriding theme of our time in the east was the return of summer.
It’s hard to believe we were camping in snow just over two months ago. By the final two weeks of our trip, the corn had grown high, people were selling vegetables from their courtyard gardens, and the first wheat harvest was already underway.
Most people still harvest by hand
Busy like a Brueghel painting
Summertime is also vacation time, and for once we weren’t the only tourists out on the road. The wall traces a giant semi-circle around most of Beijing’s weekend getaway spots, where we joined thousands of Beijingers taking their holidays. We also had some distinguished holiday guests – Dean and Brenda Fletcher – who traveled from Kansas to spend a week with us!
Dean and Brenda (Brendan’s parents) with us at Jinshanling
Emma with a cool summer lunch of fresh veg, dipping sauce and cold roasted chicken
At the little fishing villages everyone is issued a bamboo pole . . .
. . . and if you catch one they’ll grill it on the spot
All the restaurants serve wild mountain herbs – here, try some!
You can have too much summer, though. In mid-June the weather turned extremely, even dangerously hot. Every day we had temperatures between 35° and 40°, up to 41° on one day. Add in 50-60% humidity, and you have hiking conditions that are always uncomfortable, often punishing, and present a real threat of heat exhaustion.
Brendan after cooling down under a waterfall
This baby goat had collapsed of heat exhaustion. It began to recover shortly after Emma took it to the shade of a nearby watchtower, where its herd was resting.
But on the more temperate days, summer gives everyone a chance to get outside and do the sorts of summer things people do anywhere – go to outdoor markets, throw a bit of meat on the fire and have a beer, or just hang out on the side of the road. Whether we’ve spent days getting to know them or just a few minutes chatting under the shade of a tree, one of the great joys of our trip – and probably the thing that will stick with us longest – has been meeting the wonderful, generous, friendly people of rural China. We will miss them.
A weaver and his loom
Yarn piling up in front of a wheelbarrow
And we thought our packs were heavy
Sprinkling spices on some chuanzi’s (mutton skewers)
Demonstrating proper chuanzi consumption technique
A man on a mission
The Australian Ginger Rogers and . . . the Chinese Ginger Rogers
Fresh produce and a new bag of tobacco – what’s not to smile about?