This is a travel post. We’re back in the Beifangrrrr, in Hebei Province, a part of northern China that our route last summer, along the Yellow River, had us skip right past. Now we’re travelling from the dusty hills of southwest Hebei north through China’s (current) imperial capital and onward, on a week-long sprint before arriving at the Great Wall marathon next weekend.
So far, the marathon preparation has been going great. Lots of salty foods, lots of walking and never enough water. I may not be in great shape, but I’ll have had plenty of electrolytes and be thoroughly habituated to discomfort. I think this is the training regimen that those world-class Ethiopians use.
Our first stop was in Shijiazhuang (“‘Stone’ Family Hamlet”), a railroad-junction boomtown that became Hebei’s provincial capital. We got off here to head out to the nearby hills, where an old village constructed entirely of stone gave us a good reason to wander in that direction. Shijiazhuang gets a bad rap for being even more gritty and coal-dusty than other cities in the region, but with great markets and an awesome children’s park, we made a good half-day of it.
The area to the west was really awesome, though. Gazing out (between passing coal trucks) at the rolling hills, drab-green under the hot sun, Bayley felt as though she’d been transported back to the Tuscan countryside (although she’s never been to Tuscany). Then again, it might have just been all the loud and obnoxious people sitting next to her on the train.
And the stone village of Yujiacun? Magnifico! Good walking, neat sights and another great chance to experience local mannerisms, food and pronunciations. And fortunately for us, we could get by without speaking Italian.