End of an Expedition

On foot and by bus we explored Beijing beginning with a trip to the Great Wall of China, call me Mrs Ignorant, but I had no idea it was so steep. We climbed up the side of a hill to reach a ladder which led up onto the wall itself. This somewhat rickety ladder was a test in itself, being over 20 feet high and with a narrow window at the top to scramble through into one of the towers along the wall. Mentioning no names, some took more persuasion than others, to trust the ladder, with jokes about the risks and dangers we’d faced along the roads to get here and then to fall off a ladder, but we all made it onto the wall. Once up we realised what an incredible construction it is as it stretched away on either side as far as the eye could see, following the steep ridge line of the mountains. 40 minutes later and I’d walked as far as I’d wanted, some went further while the rest contented themselves with photographs of the scenery and of themselves on this remarkable edifice parts of which have stood for over 2000 years. Next was Tiananmen Square, the world’s largest square and the stage for protests and violent reprisals against them leaving thousands dead. It was a peaceful day when we saw it though the busy traffic driving through meant it was as noisy as the rest of Beijing. The length of the queue at the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall was enough to put me off any desire to see his embalmed body, the coffin is stored every night in a freezer and brought out to be put on show for those who are curious enough to want to see it or to pay their respects to China’s best known citizen.

Still on a tourist trail frenzy I went straight on to the Forbidden City where I trailed along behind the thousands of Chinese tourists who travel great distances to see and marvel at the 800 buildings including halls, palaces and temples with such great names as the Palace of Earthly Tranquillity. Some of these buildings were created for Kublai Khan and there is a lot of history although the frustrating part is that we could only peer into the buildings and were not actually allowed to enter them. I was fascinated by the tacky souvenir stalls and invested in a Chairman Mao watch and t-short amongst other things.

All too soon it was time for our closing group meal, and what a great evening we had. As a chef and restaurant manager by training, I am notorious when it comes to critiquing restaurants, but I can confidently say it was one of the best meals I have ever eaten anywhere. The amazing food and service was accompanied by a party atmosphere as we toasted our journey and achievement. Awards were made by myself and the rest of the support crew for a variety of categories including most spectacular fall, the Miss Moneypenny award for most earnest note-taker and Roadkill Warrior award. These were all received with much laughter and then to our surprise some of the group turned the tables and presented the “People’s Choice” awards in a similar vein. To my amusement I got the “Optional Luggage” award in recognition of my luggage boxes falling off not once but twice whilst I was riding.

A final toast with champagne and we said our farewells, with many of us flying home the next morning whether it was to London, Stockholm, Sydney, New York or Geneva. So it was goodbye and thank you so much to the great group that I made this journey with, to Mark, Alan, Colin, Shirley, Rory, Jan, Cyman, Syau-fu, Bruce, Oliver, Tim, Marguerite, Andrew, Ed and JB I thank you all for the privilege and pleasure of travelling with you an hope to see you all again soon.

China

I have still yet to make it out to China, but it is high on my list. Riding around San Francisco seems to pale in comparison to an international location. I will keep reading on... its pretty cool.

http://www.michaelpadway.com/blog  <--- My blog about my rides.