We had decided to get out of the city. We took the 65 bus out of the city, chose the most random location to get off, and set out for the closest mountain. We had been dropped off on the side of the road just outside what appeared to be a very tiny town composed only of a couple streets. There wasn't even a sign for the bus stop, just a empty stretch of road.
We walked through town, looking for an entrance to the mountain, or at least some food. We found a convenience store, and Nate picked up a bottle of beer. Other then some construction workers and a couple of women with toddlers the town was quiet.
We trekked up and down practically every road, but each time the way was blocked, either a building or a wall stood in our path. We were about to give up, leave the city and look elsewhere. We started walking back down the road away from the mountain, but we had attracted some attention. The small group of women with the toddlers waved us in. One started speaking very fast chinese at us. We picked up the word "shan" (mountain) from her speech, and shouted "Dui dui!" (right). The woman pointed down the road from which we had come and then pointed to the right.
We had been all the way down that street, and all we had seen were dead ends and guard dogs. We were dubious but we gave it a try. At the first possible turn I looked back at our guide, who shook her head and waved us on, at the next corner I again looked back, the woman laughed and waved us on. There were five possible turns before the road ended, by the fifth corner all of the women were on their feet laughing and waving us forward.
There was no right turn at the end of the road, so we looked back quizzically. We were being waved to the left. One step past the end of the road and we found it, a drainage ditch! It had make shift steps hammered into it, and led to a dirt path. We found ourselves surrounded by fruit trees in a terraced orchard. The season of production was over, and most of the tree's branches lay bare, but flowering vines still crawled across the ground.
"Is that Jinan!?" I asked Nate pointing to a town we could see not far away, "Here we are thinking we're so far out of the city, where the only town anywhere to be seen is this tiny little village, when really we're just in the Jinan suburbs!" It turned out to be another city, but it was still a funny thought.
Once we left the orchard the mountain grew more wild and unpredictable. We passed through a thin layer of evergreens, and soon found ourselves surrounded in fields of long grass. Every time we thought we were nearing the top the landscape would open up and reveal an even higher peak to conquer.
The grass was pitted with gnarls of brambles and sharp thorns that camouflaged themselves and tore at the clothes and skin beneath them. A mystery lay before us in one of these meadows. There were crumbling walls laid out in rectangular shapes around wide flat rocks. They did not appear to be the foundation of a building, but we could not figure out what else their purpose would be. "We have found the great wall of Qi!" I cried out, "Qi was a very small place," I added.
In the end the tippy top evaded us. It grew too steep to be climbed safely and was covered in loose rocks. We ate our giant Chinese grape fruit at its base instead, looking out over terraced mountains and tree covered valleys.
when we returned to the village we were plagued by some strange stalkers: children who had returned from school in the larger town followed us almost all the way out to the main road!