Red Leaf Valley: Day 36, Friday October 04 2013

Amy was supposed to meet us this morning to go to Red Leaf Valley, a park outside of the main part of Jinan where the leaves turn bright red in the fall. Unfortunately she couldn’t make it, but told us she’d meet us at the second bus stop to point us in the right direction. We met Sonya at 9:00am, and she was very confused as to why were were going to Amy’s bus stop, probably because it wasn’t in the right direction at all! It didn’t help either that we missed our stop. Sonya had drawn a beautiful person with the body parts labeled for me to practice with, and we were so busy laughing as I tried to pronounce the words that we didn’t get off where we were supposed to.

We finally managed to get the letter sent that I had been trying to mail while we were waiting for Amy to meet us at the wrong bus stop. The process seemed very complicated. After much exchange of Chinese Sonya wrote something down on the letter next to the address, and copied our return address down onto the flap for us. I noticed that the envelope did not have glue on it, there was a big pot of glue with a brush in it, and you had to brush your own on to get it to stick.

By the time we got the letter on it’s way Amy had found us. Sonya started talking to her in English “She knows Chinese,” We reminded her. Suddenly Sonya started speaking very fast in Chinese and took off!

“Just go with her,” Amy said, “She knows where she’s going.”

“Ok,” Nate said, “That’s usually what we do anyways, just follow her in confusion.”

Nate read his Game of Thrones book on the bus, and made friends with a girl who’s English name was Seline and was very excited because she watched the tv show. Her boyfriends name was Robyn, and we ended up joining forces during the hike.

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The 45 minute bus ride took us farther and farther off into the mountains. At one small village we passed through, the bus stopped, and about 10 people climbed on yelling in Chinese and pulling people off! We were told this was for another tour. When we reached our stop we were immediately surrounded by cab drivers each trying to take us up the mountain. Sonya and our new friends argued with a cab driver until they agreed on a price and then we piled into his van. The drive up the mountain is probably the second craziest drive I’ve been on in my life. The first craziest was the trip back down with the same cabbie. The road was narrow, with two very skinny lanes, one for going up one for going down. The street was packed bumper to bumper with cars and the drop of the downward side of the road was steep. The road was very windy with corners every 50-100m. This cab driver drove almost all the way to the top on the wrong side of the road and accelerated around the corners! He almost scraped his mirror against the cars he passed and had no regard for the people walking along the side of the road. I was just glad to finally arrive at the top in one piece.

Once through the gates however we found ourselves walking past a beautiful mountain lake full of paddle boats, with some ducks and geese looking for handouts.

We stopped for pictures on an adorable bridge that crossed the lake next to a waterfall. It was a great shot. The Chinese tourists thought so too, and asked to get pictures with us. It took us 20 minutes to escape!

When we’d finally gotten away from the bridge we came across a whole bunch of adorable tree houses! They were built on fake plaster trees but still looked really awesome.

When we came out onto a road Nate decided to take a shortcut in order to get back on the path. He climbed over the railing and jumped down the short drop back into the woods. I followed him, but our Chinese friends kept telling us to stop and that it was dangerous! All the other hikers were waving at us, and apparently telling us in Chinese to stop, but since we couldn’t understand them we just waved back and said “Nihao”

We climbed a tower as high as we could without having to pay in order to get a good view. Sonya was concerned when we climbed into the windows for pictures instead of going through the doors. After the tower Saline and Robyn had to leave so we said goodbye and continued on just the three of us.

Nate and I followed a thin path with Sonya in tow in our attempt to get to the top of the mountain. Unfortunately when we got there it was bushy and didn’t have the greatest view, but we continued along on our narrow footpath anyways, that is until some old guy randomly standing on top of the mountain shouted at us to turn around. On our way back Sonya suggested we take a “shortcut” down a steep drop off! And she thought that our hop over the fence was dangerous!

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On our way back Sonya wouldn’t let us jump a railing for a short cut. She said people would stare! We reminded her that people already did stare, but she was worried they’d talk and laugh and that it would be rude.

Well we were stupid enough to take the same cab back down the mountain and almost slammed into another car going around a corner. Fortunately we live to tell the tale.


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