Day 9: Simatai – Chengde: Bad Day on the bikes

Chengde, 23/9/2005 at 18:30

Day 9: Simatai – Chengde: Bad Day on the bikes

We got up at 5:15 am to get away early and be before darkness in Chengde. We started and found out that Jolanda had a flat tire. People get up early in China because already at this time of the day we had a lot of spectators around us while we changed the tire. Finally we got going and with several breaks we made it to the 60 km mark of our day trip before we found a taxi to drive us the last 60 km to Chengde. The heat (although it was cloudy), the honking cars, the pollution, the continous trouble with the bikes finally made us call it quits. So now we are in Chengde where we have found a decent hotel with SOFT beds, a Kentucky Fried Chicken (we are too tired for challenges in Chinese) and an internet cafe to keep you guys updated about our trip.

Day 8: Simatai Eastern Great Wall on foot

Chengde, 23/9/2005 at 18:30

Day 8: Simatai Eastern Great Wall on foot

Visiting the people of Jinshanling had been a bad experience so we decided to stay another day in Simatai. This time we walked the Eastern part of the Wall at Simatai. This part is not for the faint-hearted. This rough section of the Wall is largely unrestored and very very steep. We went as far East as we could and walked the same way back. Downhill was quite a challenge because we felt our legs from the day before. But that doesn’t matter, it is definitely worth it.
This was the hottest day so far with nearly no wind.
Back in Simatai we took the bikes out to try to find another way out of Simatai, basically to cross the wall to get North in direction of Chengde. But it turned out that we anyway had to take the main road around the Wall. Day 9 would be a very long bike ride…

Day 7: Simatai-Jinshanling on foot on the WALL

Chengde, 23/9/2005 at 18:30

Day 7: Simatai-Jinshanling on foot on the WALL

After having slept on beds like planks we got up early to get to the Wall. We wanted to be there before the tourists on day trips coming from Beijing. The village where we slept was close to the wall, so actually we were up the Wall so early that there was nobody yet to check our tickets that we had bought already the day before. The first 2 hours we only met 5 other people and in total on the 10 km trip maybe only 70 people. It took us 6 hours to get to Jinshanling. We did it very relaxed and enjoyed the views. It was so beautiful and so was the weather.
Some parts of the Wall are luckily not restored so it feels like walking on the real one, but is also very tough. At the end of the day arriving in Jinshanling we were both really tired. Jolanda’s legs were shaking… So we hired one of the locals to drive us back to Simatai. For the rest of the day we relaxed in Simatai and watched the sunset going down on the Wall.

Day 6: Miyun-Simatai by bike

Chengde, 23/9/2005 at 18:30

Day 6: Miyun-Simatai by bike

Having gone all the way from Beijing on the major roads the day before it was a pleasure to go to Simatai primarily on country roads. We had almost no traffic and went through many small farmer villages with houses falling apart between the hands of the very poor farmers. We had our first encounter with Chinese authority as we needed to cross 3 dams on our way to Simatai. At the first dam the gates were closed and we had to take a detour of unknown distance to get around the dam. Finally it turned out to be not that far and we moved on to the 2nd dam. There the gates seemed closed as well but were opened as we got closer. And after having cycled another couple of kilometers we found ourselves in front of dam 3 with the gates closed again. The dam guard only agreed to open the gates when a car full of Chinese tourists helped us persuade him of the importance of letting us al through. Alternatively we would have had to back track numerous kilometers and plot out a new route. And our maps are not that accurate. If he hadn’t let us through, Jolanda would probably have thrown the bikes an bags over the gate to go the 15 meters across the dam. All day it was cloudy, perfect weather for biking.
Towards the end of the day we got the first sight of the Wall – the major goal of our trip to China, only a few kilometers away.

Day 5: Beijing – Miyun: First Day on the Bikes

Miyun, 19/9/2005 at 20:15

For the first time on our holidy we went for a long ride on the bikes: from Beijing to Miyun !

Everybody looked a lot at us: Two Europeans in tight cycling outfits. We even kept our jackets on because it was a cloudy day and a bit chilly at times. The first part of our trip went through Beijing and basically we experienced cars going slower because the drivers needed to watch us, shout at us, and honk at us. Very busy streets so far. We’re still in flat country, but tomorrow we go into the hills and will have the first views of THE GREAT WALL ! Yiiiihaaaa!!!!

We’ve been eating along the streets, which was the best food so far, and the post cards we brought with pictures from the Netherlands were being passed around the entire restaurant to great entertainment for everyone there. Basically it works like this: We have a small Dutch-Chinese dictionary that we flip out when we need to order something. It doesn’t make sense to see the menu because out of Beijing it’s ALL in Chinese, and the restaurant staff seems to understand NO English at all. But with hands and feet we get along quite well.

Today we’ll sleep in a fine hotel with no warm water and the reception doesn’t understand any English either, but are very friendly. We get to hear loooooooooooooong stories in Chinese and they (also here at the Internet cafe) write everything down for us in Chinese characters……… but finally we get to what we want and everything turns out well. Oh, and they charge nothing for hotels, food, and Internet outside of Beijing. VERY agreeable prices !!

PS.: Eating with chopsticks is rapidly improving. After a bad chopstick day yesterday today has been super.