We came, we saw, we conquered (part2 of the Great Wall and more sightseeing)

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July 9th 2015
Published: September 11th 2015
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...We couldn't just stay there, the chinese guy was just clinging to the rock barely able to move. P was trying to think of the best way around whilst Chris momentarily went into panic mode cursing the stupid wall. Snapping out of it Chris went first maneuvering around shaking but putting on a brave mindset. Going across this dangerous gap, Chris held on with all of his might as he stepped onto the wall then onto the other rocky platform. Failure to get a firm grip or a decent foothold he would have been a goner. This was too dangerous, we all held our breath as he crossed. Chris made it.

Watching Chris climb across, P and our friend were both too terrified to cross. Especially looking down at the potentially fatal drop. Our new friend, an emotional mess, searched continually feeling for hand holds in the rock.

He said he couldn't do it. Chris tried to help by telling him where to place his hands and feet, reaching across for him to keep him steady. Once he was safe albeit still shaking, the sign of relief was all over his face. Chris then helped P (also adament she could not do it) ease hereslf down onto the lower rock.

A real close call. Never again!!!

Yes people make this extremely difficult trek everyday and although we have experience of hiking we concluded it was too unsafe for us. You need a guide and even then we don't know if we would be up for it again. We headed back towards the way we came on the wall, passing others who were set on climbing to the restored area. We didn't care, we just wanted to get to ground zero asap.

Instead of retracing our steps climbing back down the wrong way we came up, we had one of two routes. Real routes this time.

Actual routes that led us back down more safely. We chose the longer more difficult route as it would lead us to further transport. It took us 1.5hrs to get back down to the bottom, the other would have taken half an hour (the route we initially intended on climbing). Climbing down nearing the end, we recognised a part of the trail we had seen on the way up - we must have taken a wrong turn somewhere nearby as we followed some misguided people ahead.

We couldn't believe it when we got to the bottom. We were so thankful to have made it. The 3 of us hugged each other and sighed relief. There were a few moments when we questioned whether we would make it back on the wall. Everyones feet and legs were shaking and aching. We think the adrenaline numbed the pain in Chris's knee as it looked the size of a grapefruit (he naturally has skinny knees).

The bus stop was about 40mins walk away, where we would have to take a one hour ride on the bus to Hairou, then catch another bus to Beijing (2 hours away). Great.

Luckily, two mins into our walk we were so thankful when a car pulled up and the driver asked if we wanted a lift back to town. He already had a passenger inside, an American airline pilot who was in China specifically for climbing unrestored parts of the wall. They'd met on the wall and journeyed back down together. Of course we said yes.

After dropping the american guy off, the 4 of us including the driver (rental car) all hopped on the public bus back to the heart of Beijing. Due to rush hour, the usual 60min bus took a gruelling 2hrs. We were tired, hungry and cramped.

Finally back in Beijing we said our goodbyes to the 2 guys and hobbled back towards our hostel stopping off at a nearby eatery for a lacklustre meal. It would have been nice to add our friends on facebook but with facebook banned in China we instead exchanged emails.

It was around 9pm when we arrived back. Shower and bed were the only things on our mind.

What a day!!

Waking up early, Chris already had a rough plan for the day. P still feeling exhausted wanted to sleep longer. Looking back I don't know how we continued with sightseeing - we were still in shock.

Travelling must make us stronger minded and more physically able. After a breakfast of dumplings and twisted donut things, we hopped on a bus to the Summer palace. A huge site with a massive lake and many temples, pavilions and bridges.

On arrival, there were many domestic tourists. The place was packed. Sneaky photos of us being taken from every angle. The usual prolonged stares as we walked by also. The site was huge with the palace atop of the north hill and the lake filled with small paddle boats below. The weather was warm but foggy so the awe inspiring views were kind of lost on us. That, plus the aches and pains from our previous day.

We walked around for about 2 hours. Well let's say we walked 30 minutes rested on benches for 1.5 hours. We were shattered and getting too tired to see anymore. We got back on the metro back into central Beijing.

Our final stop was the Forbidden City, another must see when in Beijing. We mentally did not want to go but reminded ourselves we could not miss it. After all it is the largest palace complex in the world.

We had the impression the forbidden city was going to be an actual walled city, when in fact it's just a series of huge courtyards with museums of artifacts in between and at the sides. After the first 2 courtyards everything began to look the same. Unfortunately it seemed there was only one way in and one way out so
Beautiful riverBeautiful riverBeautiful river

Forbidden city
we had to walk through the whole complex to get out. We stopped by a couple of the museums but they did not really catch our attention.

After finding the exit we went on a search to find food. We didn't find the place we were looking for so agreed to treat ourselves to a pizza at our hostel, grabbing some roti style bread and a veggie wrap to tide us over till we got back.

We thought our legs would have been fully conditioned after Zhangjiajie, but it seemed not. Our legs ached. Chris's knee was very swollen and he was badly limping. He needed to rest it. We had 2 trains to catch. One a 44hr long train journey across the whole country followed by another 9hr train, so it couldn't have came at a better time. Infact we were both looking forward to the train journey to breath and relax again.

After our pizza we grabbed our luggage and headed to the main train station in Beijing (the same one we arrived in). Chris got the times confused but luckily he'd thought a slightly earlier time as opposed to a later one. We were going to turn back to rest at our hostel for longer but decided against it. We casully strolled to the station, stopping by shops to grab supplies for our journey taking a few pictures along the way. Getting to the train station we gave our tickets to the guy behind the desk (as normal). He looked at our tickets, made a face and then pressed a button.

This doesn't usually happen.

An english speaking member of staff came over and told us we were at the wrong station! Laughing at the same time. This was no laughing matter. We had 1 hour. We needed to catch the metro, make 2 changes and go to the west Beijing station. 3 underground trains altogether.

We didn't even consider Beijing had more than one main train station. In hindsight that was stupid considering the city has a population of about 30 million. Looking at our watch it had just gone 8pm our train was at 9:10pm. P set off into a sprint with Chris hobbling behind, backpacks on and shopping bags in hand. We purchased our metro tickets stressing and tried to work out the fastest way to get to this west station via the subway map. Finding a route we hopped on the first train.

Lets just say luck was on our side once again. After a mad dash we finally made it onto our train slightly breathless and extremely sweaty but we'd made it with about 5 minutes to spare. The train actually left about 3 minutes earlier than scheduled! Very lucky indeed. 60+ hours of relaxation and rest, just what the doctor ordered.

Due to our limited time we never really got to explore much of the city and alleyways of Bejing. Thus not being able to make a full judgement of it as a city. Hopefully that just means another trip sometime to China in the future.

And we will toboggan down the Great Wall, at whatever cost.

Oh wait..we take that last bit back!!

Additional photos below
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11th September 2015
Beautiful river

What Stamina!
So, you masters of adventure finally found your match in the crumbling and not so Great Wall! After leaving us hanging with you on the crumbling Wall in your last blog, it was a relief here to see you make it down. I can't believe you did all that sight-seeing the next day with Chris' grapefruit knee and your still-wobbling selves. Ah, youth! Congrats on making it to the right station and having a relaxing 60-hour, knee-elevated journey ahead of you. Happy instant noodles! PS--I like Chris' new facial fringe.
12th September 2015
Beautiful river

What stamina
Thanks Tara. I do think our youth is catching up on us. We were exhausted. The 60 hour journey was just what the doctor ordered 😄
11th September 2015

As usual, great blog. It made me tired just reading it! I look forward to your next blog, you made me very curious by mention a 44 hour long train ride, which probably could have a blog for itself, just like Michael Palin's dhow episode on "Around the World in 80 Days"
12th September 2015

60 hours cross country in China
It sounds dreadful 60 hours hey but it was actually relaxing after what we had been through. We were so ready to put our feet up arriving at the train station until we found out we would have to make a mad dash to the actual station we would be travelling from. Ahh travels.
12th September 2015

So you made it out alive!!!
I hope Chris's knee healed during the 60 hour train trip. I also traveled to China, visiting Beijing then Lanzhou and Xiahe, Dunhuang, Jaiyuguan, Turpan and Urumqi; and onward to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, the Baltic Republics, and Helsinki, with a barely healed broken ankle wearing the large black boot all the way. I also need to revisit China without the pain.
12th September 2015

Making it down alive
Thats incredible you survived that trip with your ankle. Thay must be one lucky boot. Your trip sounds inspiring. You really are a great world traveller. Don't know how you do it but I guess the travel bug was passed down from your parents hey. Great adventures.

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