Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Great Wall of China!

Ever since I was on the Great Wall 6 years ago I have wanted to come
back and camp on was worth the wait. We were a group of 4,
including a Chinese girl. Wow, having a Chinese speaker with you
certainly facilitates everything. We were able to navigate through the
bus station easily and then negotiate a fair price with the minivan
driver to take us to the Great Wall. Furthermore, the minivan driver
was able to inform us that the section of the Great Wall we wanted to
go to was closed. Instead he took us to a different section and I was
able to fulfill my dream of hiking along and camping on the Great Wall
of China.

When we started our walk, it was cold, cloudy and rainy. Although some
of my group members were upset about the weather, I actually enjoyed
it. It was only a light rain and it gave me an almost unreal feeling
of being on the Great Wall. With the mist and clouds all around and
not being able to see any modern strcuctures, it was easy to imagine
what it must have been like years ago when people were building it.
The rain stopped after a few hours and as dark approached we decided
to make camp. We were able to set up our tents in one of the watch
towers and make dinner. Before I went to sleep, I went out of the
watch tower in hopes of seeing the stars, not only did I see a clear
sky full of stars, but also 2 shooting stars. What a way to end a
night on the Great Wall!!

I woke to a beautiful sunrise on the Great Wall and clear sunny skys.
Of course as we walked closer to our destination we were also getting
to the tourist section. I must have passed over 500 people in the 3
hours I walked in the tourist section, quite a difference to in the
day before when I saw no one else. Nonetheless it was spectacular.

I am currently in Xining, China getting ready to spend a week or two
on the Silk Road towards Kashgar before heading to Tibet. I will try
to updated again soon.


Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Return to China

After 2 long months in Mongolia I am back to China and back to
civilization!! Since my 57 hour bus ride, things have certainly only
gotten better. I relaxed in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia for a few days to
recover and then went on an organized tour to central Mongolia and the
Gobi Desert. First of all, let me say an organized tour is luxurious!
It was run through the Golden Gobi Hostel and the owner kept saying,
"remember, this is not a luxury tour." Well, I guess he hasn't taken
the bus from Olgi to UB recently or done his own self sufficient trek
for 11 days through the Alti mountains in Sept, because, believe me,
compared to that it was certainly a luxury tour!!!!!!!

The tour was delightful in that there were only 6 of us in the back of
a Russian van, as opposed to the 8 of us in the back of a jeep during
one of my journeys in Mongolia. Although there wasn't extra room,
there was at least enough room for all of us. Due to the vast size and
poor roads of Mongolia, we spent a lot of time in the van. However we
either stayed in nomads' gers every night or camped. I got to do a 2
day horse trek through central Mongolia, boy am I glad it was only 2
days! Being the inexperienced horse rider that I am, I was happy to
get off the horse and walk the last 2 days! While trekking, we stopped
at one nomad's ger who had a large herd of yaks. I got to try my hand
at milking a yak! Luckily no one was dependent on me milking a yak or
waiting for me to get a full bucket of milk, because they would still
be waiting if that was the case. It was something new and different
though and I was happy to give it a shot.

From Central Mongolia we continued to the Gobi Desert. Well, as we had
been warned, the Gobi Desert is not as spectacular as it sounds. The
Gobi is an extremely large part of Mongolia, but the sand dune part
that I usually think of when I hear Gobi is actually only 10km long
and 12 km wide. That being said, the sand dunes were spectacular. We
got to ride camels to the sand dunes, then took off our shoes and
played in the sand. In the evening we took the van 10km away to the
tallest of the sand dunes, 300 meters high. Let me tell you, it is
nearly impossible to climb a 300 meter high sand dune! You would put
your foot down, and then slide backwards. After a long and exhausting
walk, we reached the top in time to see a beautiful sunset. Luckily,
on the long drive back to UB we only experienced minor car troubles: 3
flat tires and at one point there was a long metal shaft and bulky
round thing dragging from the bottom of the van. However, our driver
was evidently used to these problems and was able to fix each one

I am now in Beijing, went to the Forbidden City yesterday and am going
to go camp along the Great Wall this weekend with a group of friends.
Looking forward to Kashgar and north western China in the next few