A traffic jam, a thunderstorm and the Great Wall

Trip Start Apr 22, 2012
Trip End Nov 05, 2012

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Flag of China  , Beijing,
Saturday, June 9, 2012

Thought we had got a good start on the plans for today by driving 100km along the national highway (expressway) last night and staying at a service area, round the back tucked away out of sight.  Up early this morning to wash my hair - watched intently by a Chinese gentleman.  Eion took yet another photo of me bending down to do this from the washing up bowl outside, getting his own back on me for posting a photo on the blog a long time ago of him sat at the railway station in Uzbekistan cutting his toenails.
Filled up with water, emptied the loos and then were on on way - 3km from where we got off the expressway (200 km or so down the road from when we started) we hit a major traffic jam of lorries, lorries and more lorries.  Had seen motorcycles on the hardshoulder area infront of the occasional car driving the wrong way for a couple of km.  Turns out this is a regular lorry jam so there is a fleet of lads on scooters that charge people the equivalent of 30 per vehicle to 'escort' them a different way to get to Beijing.  We declined their offers - much to their disgust as we were not actually going as far as Beijing today. 
Very hot sat there in the mid-day sun but interesting at the same time.  Vendors of drinks, ice creams and even trinkets were patrolling the lines of stopped lorries on their scooters pipping their horns tryng to drum up sales.
After about 90 minutes the traffic strated moving in fits and starts - we were able to get from the outside lane to the hard shoulder (full of wagons as well) and gradually, after 2 hours managed to exit the traffic jam.  We were told that it happens because too many wagons are trying to get down the expressway and through the toll at the end - but why we sat still for an hour or more I've no idea. 
As we drove towards the Great Wall, north of Beijing it got gloomier and gloomier.  Was this just pollution blockin gout the sun or was it going to rain on us.
As we got to Juyong Guan,  a pass between 'unscalable' mountains and one of the renovated parts of the Great Wall, the first drops of rain were starting to fall.  Decided we wuld brave the rain, was still warm so I just took a borrowed umbrella of Liza to go for a 'look-see' at the wall and get a 'feel' for it here.  Amazingly, even though I have been to the Great Wall north of Beijing on three other occasions, each time it is somewhere new, and they are all different in their own way.  Paid our 4.50 for our ticket and just as we took the first step up towards the wall the heavens opened, the thunder and the lightenin gand the wind started.  Couldn't have the umbrellas up as too windy and gusty all of a sudden.  Got up to the first sheltered area and found lot sof other tourists sheltering there - the rain was lashin git down - could see tourists in t-shirts etc stranded high up on the wall caught out in the storm.Walked up the non-popular side of the wall - extremely steep and tall steps - again Eion tells me he has a photo of me on hands and knees almost climbing up them - again with my bottom stuck out no doubt......
Got back to the cars just as the rain was stoppign for good, and then another 45 minutes drive to the Ming Tombs carpark where we have parked up for the night - will explore them in the morning.
Noodles fortea - getting good at cooking them thanks to Andy's coaching the last few weeks.  You needs lots of water, boil them for about 5 minutes till plump up and then put a cup of cold water in after you turn the heat off.  Then drain them, serve and mix sauce in.  Can buy small individual sachets of sauce to stir in which is great as Andy has managed to find some that are not spicy for me while he has very spicy ones instead.  He would prefer the noodles cooked on their own and vegetables prepared seperately - but has to put up with my one pot cooking experiments.  I use the pressure cooker, cook a potatoe (or tow if Andy eating with me) chopped up with cabbage, a carrot perhaps, green beans, Chinese 'fungus' or mushroom etc etc (size of vegetable slices depends on how quick they cook - the faster they cook the larger the slice, the slower they cook the smaller the sliced pieces.  Then pressure cook for 5-6 minutes, take the lid off, add more water and a stock cube and then the noodles, boil for about 5 minutes, then add the cold water after turning the heat off.
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Mum on

We have had the same sort of weather here the last 2 days.

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