12 July – China (Shanxi-Hebei-Beijing) – ~180 miles
Final day of riding solo.
Final chance to ride like a local(/nutter).
Final proper riding day.
Started off well… leaving Datong, the GPS tried to take me out of the old/inner city via a gate/bridge which turned out to be one-way, the wrong way. My very first thought was not “oh well, let’s look for a new route”, it was “well… footpaths aren’t one-way, and that gate/bridge has a footpath, so…” No need to looking for a new route.
The rest of the day – turned out to be an excellent little compilation of all the experiences over the last two weeks. Red trucks, mostly carrying coal, for ages – coal dust everywhere. Insane traffic, with us joining in the fun. Overtaking dozens of trucks all lined up for their weight checks, dodging oncoming traffic, overtaking vehicles 3-wide, overtaking on the inside, ignoring red lights, coming across the road completely disappearing – and enthusiastically trying 6 or so different detours, off-roading random places, until finally finding a way around.
And then, we roll up to our hotel, located right at the foot of the Shuiguan section of the Great Wall. Riding along, coming around a bend, and seeing that bloody great wall along the skyline – magical. Not quite as magical as my first ever sight of it – but still pretty cool.
Got in early enough for an afternoon “wander” up the Wall. It’s still a good wall. Last time I saw this bloody wonderful thing, I spent an entire day just sitting on it and staring at it, including dodging the security guards to spend the evening sitting on some of the towers after-hours.
Today – after a hard day of “combative riding”, and then climbing the approximately 70-degree slope stairs to just get to the first tower – I was happy with just a couple of hours on it – including the ridiculously perilous climb up and down. (Super paranoid about just having a little slip and spraining an ankle on this of all days – and rolling into Beijing Ace Cafe sitting in the van – I was creeping down like a pensioner)
And then standing on the roof of the hotel, reading the book, gazing up at that glorious endless masonry on the skyline as the sun went down.