Our journey to the Great Wall began with a two and a half hr drive out to Simitai. We checked into our hotel, had lunch and then prepared ourselves for our walk up the very steep mountainous part of the wall that we could see from our lodgings. Even the walk to get on the wall is quite a climb and we were peeling off the layers at an early stage.
Yes, it was very steep and quite an effort. The girls handled it really well. We walked uphill for near on two hours to the point of the wall where you can go no further due to disrepair. Coming down took about an hour – it’s quite difficult on the descent due to some of the very steep inclines. We all collapsed for an hour or so and then had dinner. A surprise awaited one of the girls; a lavish birthday cake organised through our trusty guide, Olive. She was thrilled. Even better was the after party in one of the rooms. The girls kindly asked us to attend and we shook up the dance floor!! (sort of, in an older woman kind of way). It was lovely of them to include us in the festivities. Our student had a birthday worthy of rememberance.
We awoke to the sound of knocking on our door and news that two of the girls had fallen foul of the dreaded lergy. They weren’t up to the hike so I stayed back while the girls went with our other staff member and guide to Jinshanglang where they began the hike back to Simitai. I’d told everybody that I had found that an easier hike last year but my recollection must have been awry. They all came back saying it was much harder.
We weren’t happy with the girls staying at Simitai while there was illness in the group so we arranged to return to Beijing and the hotel we have been staying at. The girls were very happy about that, particularly in light of the wonderful buffet breakfast they know will be on offer tomorrow morning. Tomorrow we spend the morning at the Summer Palace and then we hit the Silk Market in the afternoon. THAT is causing considerable excitement to say the least!
Nearly at the end of our journey through China. Mark Spahr asked on Twitter if I could comment about what is blocked in China. I haven’t had a lot of time for internet surfing, but I have noticed I can’t access PB Wiki and all wordpress blogs. You don’t get any message saying they are blocked for any particular reason, just the ‘internet explorer cannot open this page’ routine. Some hotels have had free wireless access, some have no access at all and this hotel has cable access that is very pricey by Chinese standards. It is also an incredibly slow connection despite the cable. Mobile phone technology is everywhere here. I was receiving messages on the Great Wall as I have done on every part of the journey. I even received a message from my son’s teacher while we were hiking in the Rice Terrace fields to inform me about some poor behaviour on his part. I had to explain to her that I was on a hike in ChinaI I’ve been writing a blog for the families from my school while I am here. I’m using blogger on the advice of Jane Lowe who informed me it wasn’t blocked in China. It’s been great. The parents are commenting and have all expressed how much they appreciate the feedback in this asynchronous form. It’s a public blog. I’m hoping it will have an impact at school level in helping people to understand that this technology can be very useful for communication purposes and that it doesn’t represent the perceived danger some assume with its public nature. Before leaving I contacted all of the parents and checked that they were comfortable with their daughter’s image being on the Web. There was unanimous support. Having the mini PC has been a bonus purely for the ease of carting it around. It fits in my son’s pencil case! Gotta sign off and get some sleep in preparation for the big day tomorrow. Have to say I am looking forward to going home. 18 days is a long time away from family. My son said to me on a skype call that it felt like I’d been away for a year. He’s 9, and it would feel like that to him. Time to get home for some much needed hugs.