My new favourite food
Jiayuguan, North-west China
Another day, another pair of underpants (as my friend Sarah Craig used to say at school). Today was a really good day. Not only were the roads brilliant, but we also visited the last fort stationed on The Great Wall in the west, here at Jiayuguan.
My last blog was incorrect about The Great Wall. It's total length is actually 25000km. This sounds huge, but there is not just one long wall that makes up The Great Wall, but several that pass from eatern China westwards. The building of the Great Wall (GW) started in 700BC and was extended over the coming centuries.
We set off this morning at the leisurely hour of 9.30am- a very late start for us. The tarmac was beautiful (Ants and I are keen tarmac enthusiasts) and we covered 100km in under 2 hours. These kinds of distances have not been covered in such a time since Thailand. I felt quite euphoric and we stopped for a cup of coffee in the petrol station to celebrate. The roads became slightly less smooth when Ants took over, but we were still travelling at 40mph, which is our speed limit here in China for a three wheeler.
The beauty of not taking the Expressways has become apparent to us and we now look down on those poor people who are stuck travelling at speeds in excess of 60mph. Well, occassionally we are a little envious. The positives of travelling on the old (and slower) road is that we can stop whenever we want to take photos or have a short break. We travel through completely untouristy villages and towns, where we can stop and eat lunch. The local people are interested in TT and we are interested in them. It is a mutually beneficial relationship. However, we aren't always impressed when they shake her to test the suspension or when they get in the driving seat and start changing gears. Sometimes we start the engine while we are eating lunch to give people a shock. We have a remote control that can set off alarms and stat and stop the engine within a range of a couple of hundred metres. It is quite funny watching 30 plus people jump- not in a nasty way and they always find it funny.
The title of the blog indicates that I have found a new favourite food here and I ate about .5 kg of it at supper. In Chinese restaurants in England we have toffee banana or apple- here they have toffee potato. It sounds a strange combination, but is delicious and great energy food. I think I could do my russian dancing for at least an hour after a plate of the stuff, although I haven't tries it yet. That reminds me, supper tonight was very amusing. We brought in our own beer and were drinking it from tiny tea cups. The waitress came over and poured Chinese tea into Jack's beer, which made us giggle. Then our food arrived- coriander salad (devil's herb), cooked celery (double yuck), my favourite new food, a tofu dish and a fish Jack had chosen from it's tank. Jack asked Ants if she liked Wasabi (Japanese mustard based rocket fuel for the taste buds). She said she did and so Jack poured the whole bowl of Wasabi over Ants' coriander salad. Ants took a large mouthful, went red, nearly choked and tears poured from her eyes. We all collapsed into laughter and the waitress must have thought we were bonkers. The toffee potatoes had totally set and so we tried to prise them apart with a combination of chopsticks (useless), fingers (a little better), toothpick (the best), knife and fork (food destroyed). Bits of toffee started flying everywhere, the table, the floor, on us. We laughed again and ate more toffee (i.e. pure sugar) than is probably good for us. Good fun and a tasty meal.
Our new guide Jack just highlights the differences between him and Sam. Jack is the sort of person we would be mates with back home and Sam was grumpy and somewhat uninspiring company. Jack always asks if we slept well, what food we would like etc... Sam never did any of this and would often keep us waiting 10+ minutes in the morning because he was still asleep. Jack sings, dances, is funny and charming and a great person to be around. He is not as good as map reading as Sam, but who cares. He is such a wicked guy and we hope he can come with us to the border. Currently, his boss is due to escort us from China (I think to make sure we leave), but it is unsettling changing guides and why would we want someone new for 2/3 days when Jack fits our threesome so well.
Jaiyuguan Fort was impressive- incrediblt steep walls that I am sure would have been very difficult for any enemy to penetrate. They had obviously done some reconstruction to make the site more complete e.g. parts of the walls were reinforced and the pavillions on top of the fort had been rebuilt. The views were inspiring in three directions: mountains, snow cappes peaks and desert. In one directiuon you could see the town and four ugly power plant chimneys. Video cameras were not meant to be allowed, but that didn't stop Ants hiding behind the walls and filming anyway. We finished our touristy duties witha trip to the GW museum, which provided and detailed history of The Wall and various battles that were fought over the ages. By comoparing notes with Jack we realised that they had accidently put the wrong length of the GW in Chinese (50,000km instead of 25,000km). Jack pointed this out to the museum staff and it will now be changed.
So, life is good with the tukkers. We still drive long days, but have now got used to it and 6 hours driving feels short and fun. China has been an experience from day 1, at times trying and exhausting, but the experiences we will take away and cherish for ever. I wouldn't rather be anywhere else, or with anyone else (Ants I love you).