Sunday, 22 November 2009

Rain Rain Go Away

After three months of almost entirely dry weather in China, I have really arrived home to Wet and Windy Wales! For non UK residents who are unaware of the battering and swamping from gales and floods we have recently been suffering, this has been the view from my bedroom window for much of the last two weeks. Luckily I managed to wean the last little colt foal just before the weather set in with a vengeance, and he is now dry and warm in a stable.
Added to this I have been laid up with a nasty bout of flu which partly accounts for the gap in posts. But I am feeling much better, and today was interviewed by old friend Shan Cothi for her show on BBC Radio Wales. Below is a link to iplayer recording if you are interested - it should be available for the next week. The interview is towards the end of the programme.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

The Snow Makers

There was always a lovely view of the Bell Tower from my hotel bedroom window in Beijing, but I woke up last Sunday morning to the following magical sight.

An unprecedented 1st November snowfall had enveloped the city and its surroundings. My jeep is falling apart at the seams, but Peng and I were still able to take the opportunity to have a little jaunt out to the Ming tombs in the afternoon - the snow added an extra sparkle to the ancient buildings.

Unbelievably it transpired the next day that it was all the fault of the Chinese authorities!
A drought in North China just when the farmers were due to sow their winter wheat had led the powers that be to fire a few missiles carrying silver iodide into the sky in an attempt to seed the clouds and make rain. But they had not accounted for an advancing cold front which caused the resultant precipatation to fall as snow. It caused a few plane delays, but the farmers were happy, and everyone else seemed to rather enjoy the unseasonal surprise.

In the evening I went for a farewell dinner with Wutzala and Kubi of the Chinese Equestrian Association and Harry Tse of the Chinese Horseball Federation. Old friend He Guo Sheng, who was our indispensable ride manager on the first trial leg last year, also came with two TV reporters, and very generously treated us to the meal. Unfortunately, apart from Peng, the other members of our 2009 team had already dispersed homewards and were unable to be present.
As it was the first snowfall of the year, the meal had to be hotpot. In this case rather than one communal steamboat, we had individual hotpot burners containing the spicy simmering soup into which we dipped and cooked paper thin slices of meat and vegetables - warming and delicious on a wintry evening.

Replete after the meal. L to R. Guo Sheng, Peng, Kubi, Wutzala, Me, Harry.

Before leaving Beijing I was interviewed for the China based newspaper Global Times. Below is a link to the article on their website.

I am now back in Wales after flying home on Tuesday, and hope to return to China at the end of March to set out again across the Gobi at the beginning of April.
Keep reading - I intend to keep posting at regular intervals - not only ongoing developments, but photos of the Great Wall stage that I did not have room/time to publish before.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Beijing Hikers

As I have had a week kicking my heels in Beijing, I spent one day kicking them in the hills with Beijing Hikers. If you are visiting Beijing or are a newly arrived resident, their well organised hikes are an excellent way of experiencing the lovelier parts of the surrounding countryside, and also meeting people. The variety of off-the-beaten-track hikes are all well away from the tourist trail, to the extent one may need to beware of scratches from pushing through bushes on steep hillsides!

The walks are graded for difficulty, and on this leisurely mid-week Grade 3 hike, we climbed up a pretty wooded valley through old terraced apple orchards to a section of ancient Qin wall on the ridge above.

After admiring the views, which included a stretch of the Ming Great Wall (running along the horizon in the photo above), we scrambled down via a small gorge to a very tasty late lunch at a local farmer’s house, in my case washed down with local beer.

For details see their website