China here we come!
After a year of Fund-raising and a week of worrying what to take with me it was
time to set off on one of the biggest adventure of my life. Neil turns up bang
on time .A quick goodbye to my wife and wanes then we're
As we travel along Alderman road we notice a huge banner saying 'GOOD LUCK IN CHINA DOUGIE'. Harry one of my work mates had got up early to place the message between two trees in the middle of a busy round about. What a great gesture. I have been really taken a back with the response from my friends .
We stop to pick up Mark who is part of our group for China As we travel along
heading out of Glasgow my mind goes to whether I
have every thing. Too late now.
We arrive at Edinburgh Airport with plenty of time to spare. A quick goodbye and thank- you to Neil for the lift . Bang on time [11.00] we leave for Amsterdam. We have more than 50 in our party .All ages and fitness from all over Scotland and a few from further a field. At 13.30 we arrive in Amsterdam. Brings back memories of visiting there when I was touring Europe many years a go. Nae time to go Windmill Bagging as I have a plane to catch to China. We have all to line up in alphabetical order for the group visa which makes me get through departure fast. At 17.15 we fly off to Beijing .Here we go then. OFF TAE WALK THE WALL wae 57 strangers .By now were getting to know each other.
Day 2 28 Oct
Nihao to the 'Barracks'
Arrive in Beijing at 8.35 local time and we are transferred to the Huangyaguan
This takes about 2 hours and gives us our first look at China .I had been warned to expect the worse [WELCOME TO HELL] but I think it was a trick by the group leaders to ease us into Chinese accommodation actually loved every minute of our stay there.
It was build in a valley with the Great Wall on either side. Fantastic setting.
So we go to our rooms .No keys . Find this strange having travelled a bit but
it seem that China is very safe country but I decide to carry my passport,money
and important items with me. Cant wait to get out and explore so I venture out
for a wander round
the surrounding area.
The people seem to be very poor in this area but very friendly. After that we end up having a small refreshment in Sandy and Malcolm`s room. [actually a right good piss up wae about twenty folk in a single room] Then it`s our first meal in China. No bad After dinner we have a quiz which my team does badly. Then off to bed.
DAY 3 29 OCT HUANGYAGUAN PASS
We start the day by warming up by stretching and bending coached by Paddy our
fitness coach from Silk Steps. This was done every morning right after Breakie.
First day on the wall . Will I be fit enough I ask myself. We start by leaving
the Barracks straight after breakfast .We started by walking through villages
which gives us a good view of Chinese life. After 3km we arrive at a statue
to some Chinese leader then on to the wall. The views are magic here. We walk
for a short distance then descend down
into the valley. We take our time as this is a very steep staircase. We stop at the bottom for lunch. The lunch is basic [egg, nuts, and a double decker sanny] but it fills you up. Plenty of water. The weather is brilliant really hot for Autumn .In the afternoon David one of our tour leaders points to a red flag at the top of the other side of the valley. That`s our aim for the afternoon .Off we go .It is a lot harder than the morning but at the top the views are spectacular .Back to the hotel for dinner and a few beers .
Walk from Siniatal to Jinshanling ME AND MY SHADOW
Morning drive for two and a half-hours brings us to one of the most spectacular
sections of the Great Wall. We will walk from Jinshanling
to Simatai. We had been warned in the morning about aggressive souvenir sellers. As we reach the start off the wall we see a large Group of Peddlers ready to pounce. I squeeze my way through to be followed by a
young girl not much older than Yvonne my daughter .She looked very poor .I thought to myself I had paid £80 for a pair of Salomon Super grip Hiking boots and here she is walking the wall everyday in her plimsolls. She didn't speak much English but she did know the aproperate words .We were told if we chased our Shadow away another would turn up .So just go along with it as if it was part of the challenge. So I introduced my self to my Shadow. My name is Dougie I said what`s your name .She mumbled something . I christened her Fran as I was sure an Anna would turn up soon. She offered to carry my bag for me but I said I would buy a book of her at the end of the walk .I looked about I see that a lot of our group had taken up the offer of help and that everyperson had a shadow. Fran found it funny that my name was similar to a four legged animal which was probably part of her diet.
This was the hardest but most rewarding day of the walk, following the wall
as it snakes over the high mountain ridges. Jinshanling has 67 watchtowers with
each one an example of different architecture. These
remote areas of the wall are fantastic; there are high ridges with both ruined and restored watchtowers, with some of the wall overgrown by vegetation and in it's natural un-repaired state. At Jinshanling the wall zigzags up inclines and straddles between peaks like a suspensionbridge, the staircases on the wall here can be very steep, especially at the Simatai end where there is an option to climb another 2 km furtherup steep stair cases.
About half way along the wall another Shadow [Anna] appears coming towards
me from the Simatai end . I explained that Fran is my China for the trip. I
had been set up as we go on a few hundred yards and Fran tells me she has to
return to Jinshanling to look after her kids. Being a big softie I buy a book
of her and wish her well . Then Anna moves
over to greet me with hello hello. Here we go again .She walked close by offering to help at awkward parts of the wall . When I stopped she stopped when I walked she walked.
When we reached Jinshanling I gave Anna a few quid which brought a huge smile
to her young face .Today had been very long walk but a day I will never forget.
We are staying at Jinshanling guest house tonight. About
5.30 p m we walk back up to the Wall to watch the sun go down .There's music coming from one of the watchtowers .It's our group doing a bit ofhighland dancing. The Dashing White Sergeant is getting big licks.
Nothing I like better than standing on people's toes.
After dinner we have a bon fire and some Chinese firecrackers and swally some more beers .[Why not] Then it's off tae bed chinese crackered.
DAY 5 31 st Oct Mutianyu
After breakfast I wander out for some fresh air to clear the head to be met
by Anna trying to flog me some more souvenirs .I quickly
retreat to the hotel.We Drive to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall located in Huairou county, this is one of the more popular sections of the wall, where President Clinton and other VIPs are brought to. After a
three km pre-walk I decide to take the optional hike up the side of the mountain.
This the hardest walking of the week.
We have to wait while our guides bargain with the local farmers to let us carry on their land.
Once on the wall we had an unobstructed view in both directions of its great length meandering along the mountain crests. In the afternoon we take the toboggan slide down to the market.
Where we are met by eager vendors. That night we stayed in Changping. We have dinner in the friendship store then it's back to the hotel for our Hallowe'en party.
DAY 6 1ST NOV
The Wall at Jurongguan Pass
This is a short but very vigorous walk that loops along the mountains either
side of the pass. The wall here is reconstructed and in good condition, starting
with a steep
haul up a staircase of some 1600 steps .This was quite hard walking up so many steps but the longer the week goes on the fitter you get.
I meet a few expats here from Australia and Canada . It's was quite strange
talking to people that had left Scotland many years ago
at the Great Wall of China. Is the pictures in Gascube road Glasgow still there. I tell them it was in Cambridge St and it was knocked down about 25 years ago. They laugh and say their going to go hame someday
and check out my information. We shake hands and we are off again.
Finally at the bottom Roy buy's us all a 'WALLS ICE CREAM'. Just
what we needed. Back to the hotel to freshen up for our train trip down to Xian.
Then stop off at KFC for dinner. MAGIC. NAE CHOP STICKS.
DAY 7 LAST TRAIN TO XIAN CENTRAL
We stock up with supplies for our 16 hr train journey from Beijing to Xian. Around 5 `o Clock we leave Beijing main train Station. We are booked in Soft Class which means we have a bunk to sleep on .Later on I
had a look at the other classes and was pleased where we were staying.
We had a nice private compartment with four beds in it. I take the top bunk .As we leave Beijing the views from the train are very
We pass through many villages and land is very flat.[ farm land] .As time goes
on the darker it gets. The party starts . Fifty-odd Scotsmen together for hours
on a train
means the drink will flow. Flower of Scotland, I belong tae Glasgow, the northern lights are all belted out from different carriages. I was in
a compartment with another 12 squeezed in. One of the staff on the train comes in to see what going on .Hey give the man a drink .NO REPLIES from the guard . Take a small whisky. He leaves in a hurry but returns five
minutes later with a jam jar Which he receives a large one in. We all introduces ourselves and he says his name is Coco. After a few halves he leaves the worse for wear never to be seen again. A few hours later a member of the transport police is offered a drink. Which he declined and
lifts his jacket to show his pistol. We don't offer again.. Time to catch some sleep.
We arrive in Xian bang on time and transfer to the Orient hotel. In the afternoon
we walk 10 km which will take us through typical
peasant villages. We pass the Weihe River and bamboo trees, which spread like a green blanket over the hillsides. We walk to the Zhongnan Mountain, a site famous in China as the place where Taoism originated.
We walk a further few km up to the top of the mountain (about 500m above sea level) where the views over the Shaanxi Plain are spectacular.
In the evening we go out to the Shaanxi Grand Opera House to see a recreated of Tang-Dynasty music and dance. I nearly fall asleep .EVERYONE ELSE SEEMED TO ENJOY THE SHOW. [the wee drummer was quite funny]
DAY 8 Sat 3rd Nov
The modem city of Xian was once the site of the mighty city of Chang'an, the capital of 11 Chinese Dynasties, and was also the starting point for the great trade caravans of
the Silk Road. In the morning we were driven out to see the amazing Terracotta Army. Although there is no historical record of
the thousands of life sized armoured soldiers and horses, it is believed that they were intended to serve as bodyguards for the ghost of Qin Shi Huangdi, the famous Yellow Emperor who first united China and reigned from 22 1-20 BC I shake the hand of the old farmer who discovered the Army . He was paid a few yuan for his land but is making more now signing autographs.
Until you actually stand with the whole Terracotta Army in front of you. You realise that this is the Eighth Wonder of the world. The light is very poor so it is very hard to take a good picture. We then watch an
360 degree film. As we leave the hall and travel back to the bus we come to another
stall with a old man claiming he discovered the army. Back at the bus. I ask our CTS guide which one was the original? He laughs and shrugged his shoulders.
In the afternoon we do our walk along the city walls with the Aberlour banner.
We travel back to our hotel by Taxis . I was in the front wae my fingers cross.
At night we have our Gala dinner to celebrate our achievements.
Everyone has been asked to do a turn .I get roped into being the legs and arms of an backpacker in a crazy sketch. Happy with that better than singing. A lot of effort had been put into the show . When we go into the room we are handed a glass of champers
and a 'Back to the wall medal' . Which was a nice gesture from the charity. As the night goes on I find out there are many talented people in our group. The whole show was very well organised by Jane .One of
the group leaders. George one of the older members of the group gets up to
sing which seems to bring the show to a finale.After the show we head out a bar along the road till the wee small hours.
DAY 9 Sunday 4th of Nov
Flight to Beijing in the morning . Flight was fine . Then transferred to
The Exhibition Hotel for two nights .It was great travelling from the airport to our hotel .Great to get our first real view of Beijing
.Beijing was a lot more modern and we see the odd English signs. In the afternoon we go on a rickshaw tour of the the Hutong Area [ancient city alleys] and visit a typical Hutong family and finish up in the local Tea house for a cuppa. At night we go out for an Italian meal .EXCELLENT
DAY 10 MONDAY 5 TH OF NOV MALKY`S TOURS
The last full day in China but the best. I decided not to take the official tour of the Forbidden city but take Malky`s Tour of Beijing. [Around Beijing in 80 minutes]
We scoffed down breakfast and met in the Lobby. My guide for today was Malky a retired Architect and his assistant Sandy . Malky had been on a previous trip to China. So he knew the sites or so I thought. Sandy was to do the commentary .[he had great difficulty remembering the names of anything]. A quick head count and the 3 off us we're off .First stop the Beijing Zoo . Straight to the Panda house .First time I`d every seen a Panda. MALKY SHOUTS TIME UP and we are off . That was some zoo 2
PANDAS, 4 SPARRA`S AND A MAGPIE. Taxi for tie me doon square shouts Sandy. Tian`anmen Square is huge .Little prepares you for the experience of being in the square.
First thing you notice is the giant portrait of Chairman Mao. This is what travel is all about seeing famous sites for real. Take lots of
pictures here. Now to the Forbidden City
What a place .The Forbidden City is the largest palace complex in the world. 9999 rooms.Over 491 years the residence of 24 emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasties
The ordinary Chinese were barred from entering. What a place.
A Quick head count and we're off. Next stop Starbuck cafe for a coffee stop
.Strange being in China and hearing the Eagles record Hotel California playing.
After that, Silk Alley for some serious shopping for gifts for the long suffering
family at home. Taxi back to the hotel. A quick shower and out for dinner.
Seeing this is the last evening we go for a Peking Duck Banquet. Brilliant What a day.
Day 11 Tuesday 6 th Nov
FLY HOME VIA AMSTERDAM
THANKS AGAIN FOR YOUR HELP OVER THE LAST YEAR HOPE YOU HAVE ENJOYED SOME OF THE EVENTS THAT HAVE BEEN ARRANGED TO HELP FUND ABERLOUR`S WORK WITH SCOTTISH KIDS.
CHEERS DOUGIE BAIRD.