Climbing the Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is a monument that can be seen from space and I think every first-time visitor to China wants to go there.

Same here, so I booked a day trip with the Beijing hikers. They came highly recommended by a couple I met on the cruise and I also had heard from Babsi’s friends that they were the best.

So I had to wake up at 6:15 on my birthday and get ready to be at the pickup place at 7:30. With the description on the website it was easy to find though and right on time we started our trip. The weather was not promising a great view though.

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It was a two-hour bus ride to get to the hiking start and with a short coffee break at the second pickup we were there in no time.

The plan looked easy enough and the first couple of hundred meters were ok but then it all changed.IMG_2515 IMG_2516

Very steep steps again and when there were no steps then it was just steep. The first couple of minutes the group stayed together but then each one walked at his own pace. We had three guides with us and Tina the girl in front marked the path with little flags when there was a question about which way to turn.IMG_2517 IMG_2520

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I think some of these flags were just meant as booster for the moral that we were in the right way. Right at halftime there was a cave next to the path with nothing to see but it made for a reason to stop a while.IMG_2522

Shortly after I could finally see from afar the wall. I cannot tell how glad I was to see that the end was near, at least for ascent.

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As you can see I was a little more than exhausted when I reached the wall but very glad that I had made it. Also my newly bought backpack from Nepal proved to be a worthy investment. I was still soaked through but not as bad in the back as when we did the Annapurna trekking.IMG_2528 IMG_2529 IMG_2533

IMG_2532 IMG_2535After a long enough rest for all to arrive at the wall and catch their breath we walked along the unrestored wall. Too bad that the weather was not in our favor and the view was limited. Still, it was very impressive but something to be done again. A German guy I talked to during this part told that he comes to China every year on business and always stays a bit longer after and that every year he books a tour for the wall. Quite the recommendation!IMG_2537 IMG_2540IMG_2542

We also heard at our next rest stop that we were lucky. Because 10 days ago it had snowed and just five days ago it had rained. So we had to be grateful for warm and hazy weather.IMG_2544 IMG_2551

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The descent was the easy part for me but quite a lot found it more harrowing than going up. Maybe my Austrian ancestry made me go down nimble as a mountain goat (I wish I had been as nimble on the way up).

When we finally arrived in the village where the bus waited everyone looked ready to sit down and never get up again. But this would change quickly with a delicious 10 course meal (very traditional as the girl from Beijing confirmed). We sat down to eat on huge round tables and the different plates were put in the middle. I just had to choose what I wanted to try.

In time before the thunderstorm we were back on the bus. The ride home took an hour longer due to the weekend traffic. When I arrived at Babsi’s place she was already starving. She had waited with dinner for me to celebrate my birthday.

The rain that evening didn’t ruin my good mood, it was my birthday, I had been to the wall and I had a really nice umbrella with me.IMG_2564 IMG_2566

We went to a vegan restaurant just around from Babsi’s place. Since I was not really hungry I didn’t care so much about the food. It was actually some kind of Middle Eastern fusion cuisine. I stuck to what I knew and ate the Babaganoush. Babsi ordered chocolate cake for dessert and since I am already of advanced age we had 4 pieces so that all the candles fit!IMG_2570 IMG_2576 IMG_2578

Please note that I brought the candles from Vienna (thanks Tici!).

They even closed the light in our corner so that the candles look brighter and played ‘Happy Birthday’ on the stereo. It was a very lovely evening. Yours, Pollybert

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Terracotta Army

My first night on my own passed without incident. I was ready to face the world and after a coffee I was also awake enough for it. The tour to the Terracotta Army started at 9am. We were quite an assembly from all over the world. Half of Europe and America were on that bus. I shared my row with Jeff, an American “green” environment consultant from Portland. He came only for the tour to Xi’an down from Beijing. While sitting next to him he proved to be a fountain of travel information since he had been to China already a couple of times.

We arrived after a two hour drive at the excavation site and started our tour. First we went to the tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang. From it you can only see the man-made hill. Since he took mercury in minimal dosage to reach longevity, he kept at it in his death. He had a river of mercury laid around his grave. So although they know where the grave is, they cannot excavate it due to the high mercury level. We were told only 20 more years and then we could come visit.IMG_1979
If you are wondering it’s the little hill in the back, I just wanted to show that it is a World Heritage Site.

From there we walked back to the actual pit sites and started with site number 2. Here the only intact archer was found. All other statues have been painstakingly put together again. This was necessary because the roof caved in due to earthquakes.IMG_1980 IMG_1982 IMG_1984 IMG_1989 Please read how moderate they are about the chrome plating technology.
There are five different kinds of soldiers they found but the kneeling archer was the only one which was found whole. Probably because he knelt and there was less breaking surface.IMG_1987 IMG_1988 IMG_1990 IMG_1992 IMG_1995 IMG_1996 IMG_1997
Please note the details on the shoes. The nail imprints mean that he was married and his shoes were made by his wife.

In pit number 3 we could see a chariot and horses. Mongolian, which are the smaller ones, and Chinese. All figures were hollow by the way and had a hole somewhere for the steam to go out while they were burnt in the kiln.IMG_2006 IMG_2010 IMG_2013
Finally we went to pit number 1 with the biggest and most important find. Here the soldiers were initially found while some farmers were digging for a well. The different faces were noticeably and while the body was done by a mold the head was done by an artist. Every worker on this project got eternalized in the face of a soldier. And afterwards they were all killed.IMG_2014 IMG_2015 IMG_2017 IMG_2018 IMG_2021 IMG_2023 IMG_2025 IMG_2027
We then watched a movie for 20 minutes about the history of the emperor and the unification of China and then went for lunch. I was starving by then since I had had only coffee for breakfast.

After lunch we slowly made our way back into the city. Apparently there was a lot of traffic since the autoroute was closed.

A plan was hacked on route to go bicycling up on the old city walls and our tour guide let us out at the gate. A short while later we started to cycle on top of the wall.IMG_2030 IMG_2033 IMG_2034 IMG_2037 IMG_2038 IMG_2041 IMG_2043
After the cultural impressions during the day the sporty part was just the perfect ending to this wonderful first day. But more was to come. We walked from the gate near the hostel to look for the mosque. Which we actually never found, but an amazing food market instead. Yours, Pollybert

A long day ends in Kathmandu 

Tuesday morning I woke up at 5:30, one of the few times that my nerves got the better of me. But when you start a 3 months long trip I think it’s allowed.

Since the check-in the night before at Landstraße hadn’t worked (who would have thought that Vienna is after all just a provincial nest and not a cosmopolitan city)due to the closing of said check-in at 9pm and our arrival at 9:07, I decided that to wait for sleep was useless. Rather get up and go. By 7am I was at the check-in and at 7:20 at work.

Work was over in a flash and then it was already time to go to the airport. We look so happy, not knowing that an 18h trip is just very long.IMG_0295 We went to London and from there to Dheli. I passed the flight trying to sleep, but there was a baby in front. Even with earplugs there was just no escape. of course in time for breakfast it was sleeping like an angel.

Dheli then was a different experience which basically started with split pants right before security.IMG_0302

So when we finally made it through security I had to buy first of all pants. What a promising start to this adventure but after 12 years of good service it was time ro move on.

With these little problems behind us we boarded the flight to Kathmandu and promptly had a delay. I used the time to catch up on sleep, not successful though since I woke up every time my head hit my chest. For the long wait then we were first served a cold beer. No complaint here. IMG_0306

And also lunch was served on this short flight which was quite good actually and well needed since I had missed dinner the night before.IMG_0307

Kathmandu airport is very small and currently under construction. But our bags arrived and that was all we needed. Plus the driver outside who already waited for us with a sign. In no time we arrived at our hotel and were greeted by our local organizer Progess. Just love the name.IMG_0317

 

The  Tibet Guest House will be our home for the next two days. With Progress we organized a mountain flight for the next day, plus the guy for the Tibet visa made his way to our hotel after Progress called him. Final task for the day was a visit to an ATM and to get some water. After that off to bed. Yours, Pollybert