RDP #83: Remember


 Remembering The Great Wall

In 1990 David and I travelled to the UK by train via China and Russia. As it was necessary to get  a visa to pass through Mongolia on the train which had to be arranged in Beijing we had a five-day stopover there.

Naturally we were keen to visit the Great Wall of China so we booked ourselves onto a tour which included a visit to the section at Badaling, the nearest point to the city.

Our group was fairly small, it was a Sunday in February and all the other tourists were businessmen taking a day off, most were Americans, one was British and another was Australian. I was the only woman.

When we arrived at Badaling we all followed our guide but at varying speeds. David was never much of a walker and soon lagged behind but encouraged me to go on ahead. This was quite a touristy section of the wall. There were hawkers selling souvenirs and encouraging visitors to have their photos taken with a camel. We came to one of the towers where soldiers were once posted to guard against invaders and I managed to catch up with the group while the guide talked but lost them again as I descended the stairs more slowly than the men. I carried on walking, thinking that I’d catch up with them soon. There were few westerners there that day but many Chinese visitors. I kept walking, carefully as there were traces of ice and snow on the path. As I went on the crowds seemed to thin out but I still didn’t see the rest of the group. I was enjoying myself though. It was much quieter now and I liked the views of the mountains in the distance.

Eventually I reached the point where that section of the wall ended and as I had no idea whether it was possible to go further or where the rest of the group was I turned back and eventually reached the bus.

When I got there everyone was already on board and David asked me where I had been. The others had all returned after viewing the first tower and they had been waiting for me ever since.

I was a little embarrassed but not really sorry as I felt that they had missed the best part of the walk. Standing on the Great Wall of China in the silence without all the crowds and commercialism was for me the high point of that day.

 

Author: Taswegian1957

Born in England in 1957 my family came to Australia in 1966. I grew up in Adelaide, South Australia, where I met and married my husband David. We came together over a mutual love of trains. Both of us worked for the railways for many years, his job was with Australian National Railways, while I spent 12 years working for the STA, later TransAdelaide the Adelaide city transit system. After leaving that job I worked in hospitality until 2008. We moved to Tasmania in 2002 to live in the beautiful Huon Valley. David passed away in 2015 and I'm here on my own now but I have Cindy the dog and Polly the cat to keep me company. I currently co-write two Wordpress blogswith my sister Naomi. Our doll blog "Dolls, Dolls, Dolls", and a "Our Other Blog" which is about everything else but with a focus on photographs and places in Tasmania.

8 thoughts on “RDP #83: Remember”

  1. My Badaling experience was like being on the metro in rush hour: I had to walk at the pace the crowd kept. I must say I just gave up and took the lift down. Maybe I should just have gone further like you.

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    1. Maybe, China is much more accessible now than thirty years ago and I imagine that in the peak tourist season it would always be like that. I’m told there are other, quieter sections of the wall that can now be visited and if I was ever there again I think I’d go to one of those. At any rate I did not regret making 10 people wait for me that day as I had a real experience.

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    1. I think I was lucky to see it and to see Beijing at that point in time when it was beginning to open up. I think it is probably much more like any other large Asian city now.

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  2. This must have been a great journey. Was this a train with sleeping compartments? Also I wonder how long it took you from Asia to UK by train.

    What I’ve seen of China is all from TV or documentaries on YouTube and internet pictures. It would be a place that I would like to see. But I guess the temperatures would be nothing for me, although some more European hot summers and I will probably be habituated to it lol.

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    1. I think that they are building very fast trains like the bullet train in China now but back then the trip from Hong Kong to Beijing was more than 24 hours so we did have a sleeper. They had either two or four bunks but there was also a “hard class” with curtained off bunks. I am sure you have seen the type of thing. We went in winter time and Beijing was chilly but not freezing. One day I will try to locate my old travel diary where I made notes about such things. It was cold but not cold like Siberia. We walked a lot in Beijing so it could not have been unbearably cold. I can’t remember now exactly how long the rest of the trip took. At least one day and night from Beijing to Ulan Bator in Mongolia because it was night when we were there, another day to Irkutsk in Siberia where we stopped for a day or two to visit Lake Baikal. Then on to Moscow I think another two nights on the train. We spent a few days in Moscow and did a side trip to Leningrad as it was still known, an overnight train trip. We did not stop anywhere between Moscow and Hoek van Holland as we needed to save money for the rest of our holiday in the UK but I would have loved to have stopped in Warsaw and Berlin. I think that part of the journey was at least another two days as I don’t recall seeing much of Warsaw from the train and I know we were in Berlin at night. It’s so long ago now that many of the details are forgotten . The ferry trip to Harwich in Essex, UK was several hours in daylight and we arrived in London at night. Including the stop overs along the way the whole journey took us about three weeks.

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      1. Sounds very interesting. You’ve seen a lot in a short period of time. Generally I would say it sounds like stress, but it’s probably not so much when you can sleep in the train. Sometimes when I was on a longer train trip through Germany back then, I realized the sound of the train wheels grinding the rails was very hypnotizing. Take the sound and add the landscape scenery, it puts you to sleep. On a 8 hour trip from Dortmund to Hamburg, I fell asleep, but not completely… I was half asleep, I could hear everything around me, including the train wheels. It felt like sleepwalking. The sound in a train cabine can be very mesmerizing. Maybe it’s the monotony, but on a beautiful way.

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      2. I fall asleep on trains very easily, sometimes when I would rather stay awake and watch the scenery. I find the motion and sound restful but some people can’t sleep on trains even in a sleeper bed.

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