I went on two very different day trips this holiday season. One took me inland to the Great Wall through rural villages and terraced orchards showing the first signs of blossom, the other seawards through bleak flatlands past factories, concrete high rise shells and clusters of Barratt style communities (with Chinese characteristics, natch). Typically the sky was smog-ridden and overcast for the former and gloriously blue for the latter, though the contrasting weather could neither detract from the spectacular views of the Wall nor enhance the monotony of the countryside en route to Tianjin.
The Wall was not as mobbed as I would have expected and in a three hour walk we passed few groups other than at entry points. The blossoms were just beginning to spread providing a bright contrast to the brown hills and mountains stretching into the distance and a delicate detail against the stonework of the Wall. The snaking progress of the bricks up ridge and down dale was as incredible as all the cliches about it are over used so I’ll let a couple of pictures pump up my wordcount.
The people we did pass were clothed in anything from shaggy sheepskin shrug and platform shoes to full hiking gear and the route was not easy even for the properly equipped. I didn’t envy platform chick’s boyfriend his job of getting her back down in one piece since unsurprisingly she was stuck for some time even on the way up when she was able to face the right way.
We exited the wall some six or seven kilometres from where we started and ducked into a small guesthouse where they produced one of the better meals I’ve had here from a tiny kitchen outhouse. There were a couple of Chinese families also waiting to be fed and I was struck by two boys about the same age playing together: it is so unusual to see gatherings with more than one child involved. The one time I saw a two:one child:adult ratio was three adults with six children in Tiananmen Square; it took me a while to work out what was so odd about the grouping. The father of one of the boys at the guesthouse had to berate him for not playing nicely which is also quite rare not only because children are generally thought to be spoilt here but also because when else would he have to share, other than perhaps at school?