Day 4

Today's adventure saw the William Farr Team ascend The Great Wall of China, but before we started our climb we stopped at a local Jade Carving Factory to look and for some have a quick shop. However, the main activity was the steep ascent of the Great Wall of China. Built to keep out the Hun and soon the Mongolians, the Great Wall of China now stands as one of the 7 Wonders of the World, a wonder we can now all say that we climbed.

Beginning our climb we were warned by a sign (hopefully with a poor translation) not to climb if we had a brain disease which promoted some interesting questions as to what constituted a brain disease. A few of the Sixth Formers set themselves the target of counting the steps on our steep climb but the answers varied from 600 to 900 and into the thousands. Chairman Mao himself famously said that "you are not a man until you have walked on the Great Wall off China" and sparing gender bias I think we can all be proud of achievements today. The wall snaked up the hilly terrain with a target of 4 Watchtowers to climb up to and through and with the lower reaches of the wall swarming with more domestic tourists it seemed like a tough feat in our time alloted but a small band of foolhardy/sweaty students and teachers made their way to the highest limit. The return to ground level was met by the issuing of "hero" certificates and a well deserved ice cream.

Lunch was taken in a local Enamel Factory which allowed us to see the intricate work of very skilled tradesmen and women and brought the delighted cry of "chips" amongst the familiar crowded table of Chinese dishes...which still remain different and new every meal. Buoyed by the chips, we progressed on to the Ming Tombs, burial place of all but 3 of the Ming Dynasty Emperors. Each Emperor reserving the right for a large 60-80km square plot of land in which he, his wife and anything that he would need in the after life could be buried. We went to see the largest tomb for the Emperor Zhu Di who was responsible for building the Forbidden City. Unlike the City this area was far more peaceful and allowed us to have a quiet wander through the buildings and climb the Emperor's Soul Tower. On returning through the Heaven Gate we banged our feet and men used their left foot to cross the gate while the women (always right) used their right in order to leave bad spirits behind.

A slow bus ride back to Beijing brought us to a Peking Duck Dinner, where the Sixth Formers (although some petrified by the sight of whole roasted ducks being brought to the table) skilfully wielded their chopsticks to build, fold and eat their pancakes by hand. From the highs of scaling the Great Wall to the expansive views afforded to us from the top, today has been a real highlight.

Tomorrow will see us leave Beijing on an overnight train to Xi'an so the updates may be a little delayed until we reach our hotel stop!

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