I eventually dragged my sorry ass out from the castle and started walking again.
One thing about Changji that really surprised me was its cleanliness – very unlike some of the other cities I’ve come through on my way from the capital.
Apparently, this is due to an effort to transform Changji into a tourist destination:
Me personally, I’ve always liked the colorful everyday life on the roadside better than any of the big monuments:
Here’s a part of today’s walk at 10x speed:
(Spoiler alert: you can hear me heavily curse at a driver at one point!)
The heat was even more merciless than the days before. It apparently climbed to about 37°C in the afternoon:
I was miserable.
Good thing my shoes didn’t give me too much of a problem, even with the blisters I already had:
I was cooling off in the shade of a tree, when Grandpa An 安老爷子, an old Hui (muslims and water fountains), ran into me and started a conversation. A little while later, we were hanging out at his place:
Tea and nang, and some friendly people. What more could I ask for?
They put large chunks of rock sugar into their tea here:
At first I didn’t like the idea of spoiling a good green tea with this, but then I discovered that the taste was actually very good!
Grandpa An introduced me to one of his four sons, who all live in the same village:
And when I told them that I enjoy taking pictures of old things on the way, they came up with this ensemble:
(From left to right: Russian tea kettle, Arabic incense burner, Chinese tea kettle.)
Oh, and here is a picture of Grandpa An:
He lost one eye and three fingers when he was seven years old. This was in 1949, and the war had just been over for a few days, when the little boy found the remnants of a bomb outside and thought they were fun to play with.
I continued walking later in the afternoon, when some of the heat had moved on to scorch another part of the earth:
By this time, my feet were hurting pretty bad, so when I got to a small guesthouse on the roadside, I figured it was a good idea to call it a night.
Also, a large flock of what I thought were vultures circling over the road made this decision a bit easier for me:
Actually, I just learned that they were black kites.
When I got assigned a bed, I immediately crashed on it and fell asleep for an hour. I think I might have caught a cold.
I went out to find some food later, so I tried this average-looking Muslim restaurant:
“You can also sit in the backyard, it’s nicer there!” they said.
…I couldn’t believe how right they were:
They had everything – chickens, geese, ducks, cats and dogs, and even a few pearl chickens:
I don’t know if you remember, but being a rather silly person myself, I am always looking for goofy animals. I found a few of them here:
…they just started going nuts after my friend Ma Jungang 马军刚 had turned on the radio.
Maybe they didn’t like the song?
Anyway, this is Ma Jungang:
He is a very kind man. We chatted for a while, and I learned how he was planning to turn his roadside restaurant into a country guesthouse, complete with food, lodging, and a karaoke-machine!
One thing that I liked particularly about Ma Jungang was the fact that had the ability to be an epic goofball:
…like many of the best people I know.