Well, I've got a lot of photos, so I'm going to do this in parts just so I can get something up here for everyone to look at. The pictures are more or less in chronological order.
Friday morning we set off from Erwai after finding our driver, Mr. Li. The drive was about 3 hours in a hot van sitting in traffic, but after 2 and a half hours the drive became a nice scenic drive the mountains. Mr Li however, treated his van like a go-cart and beeped at oncoming turns that bent around the mountain side to ward off other vehicles. An interesting experience to say the least
When we made it to Simatai a few hours before dark and wasted no time searching for places to sleep. We finally found the perfect hostel hidden away behind a big billboard and down a hill. We stopped here for the night, went out and found the 'fancy' hostel up at the top of the village and ate some overpriced, mediocre food though. No problem, its China and food is cheap. After drinking a watery beer each, we started to walk up the exit path from the Great Wall just to explore before dark. We got about half way up in time to see the sunset to the left, the Great Wall to the right, and a river running through the middle. We took a semi-dangerous climb up the side of part of a mountain and took in the view for a little while. There is something really interesting about how time works in a smaller village like Simatai. The only times that matter are day and night. Things are on in the daytime and off at night. When it was dark we returned to our hostel to find that the lady who rented us the room was cooking dinner. Well, we couldn't just turn up some of the most traditional food we'll get to try. So, we got everything ... a big bowl of some sort of stewed chicken in a sauce, a plate of fish (who were caught by the landlord's daughter that day I believe), two plates of some lightly fried veggies, and a plate of this amazing flat bread that she had just fried from dough twenty minutes before. Well, we each drank a beer or two and went to sleep.
The next morning, we paid the woman to make us breakfast, which was a big plate of some sort of chinese noodles, in brown sauce (everything in China has brown sauce). We then met up with our driver/tour guide Mr. Li and jumped on the sky tram up the mountain. The tram was great, but the problem was it only got us up half the mountain, the next bit was to be taken by foot. The trick was, however, that after about 200 meters up walking up steep, winding paths, they have a new train to take you up the rest of the way if you pay as much as you did for the tram. We are men, so we took the hard way up. After about 9 breaks or so... We made it to the top.
I'm going to save the rest of this story for the next update I think, that way it'll go along with the pictures!
Here are some shots from the roof of our hostel (using the rusty re-welded ladder to get up):
This is to the rear of the hostel, there is a river flowing behind it from left to right.
This is just a guy I saw, *click*:
Besjan on the roof. This is to the left of the first picture, and the best view ever:
This guy lived with the family who rented us the room.
Something to clarify, much of Simatai is commercialized now for tourism, somehow we got to stay in one of the few untouched areas.
Simatai as we're walking up the exit path of the Great Wall-
Look carefully, see the man in white?
This is a zip line hooked up just below the lowest point of the Great Wall and it takes you all the way across the river below it.
Next update, up to the Great Wall--