China Cycling Travelogues

Do you have a China cycling travelogue you would like to share here?
Contact us for details.

Peter in Tian'anmen Square



Peter Snow

Beijing to Chengde Seven-Day Tour Notes

Part 3

Copyright © Peter Snow Cao 2002.





Ming Tombs and The Great Wall

North of Beijing after leaving the main road, the road traffic settles down to a few vehicles per hour through gently rolling hills. We pass farms and a main gate to an airport museum under construction.

We are headed to the Ming tombs via the back roads. No 40 passenger tour buses, just a few bicycles and children. In some sections, the road is half covered with drying corn on the cob. The trees are turning to their fall colors. Cycling doesn’t get much better than this.

Corn cobs drying on the road

We pass through Changping, the nearest big town to the Ming Tombs, and then begin a climb up a winding road. At the top, we have stumbled onto the Shisanling Reservoir, pitifully low due to the seven-year drought.

A few film and trinket hawkers reassure us we are on the right track, but the lack of tour buses remains a mystery. The road edges the reservoir and is delightfully scenic and well paved.

Several kilometers later we meet the road signs directing us to the three main tombs, the Chang Ling, Ding Ling, and Zhao Ling. They are spaced several kilometers apart, so we decide to view the two most promising starting with the Chang Ling.

Here we meet up with the tour-bus crowd and see westerners for the first time since leaving Beijing. The parking lot has only a few vehicles which is curious because so many hotels in Beijing where full. I wonder what they were doing.

The tombs are impressive, but have such a lifeless atmosphere I am happy when we depart.

We are now heading to the Great Wall at Badaling. We are back on the main road, but fortunately, much of it has wide shoulders. It is a climb however, as the builders of the Great Walls chose the mountain ridges wherever possible. We meet up with the Beijing-Badaling expressway, but fortunately there is a parallel local road without much traffic.

Great Wall road side sign

Along the way, we catch glimpses of the Great Wall and we think we are nearing our destination, but it is the recently restored Juyong Guan section of the Great Wall.

When we arrive it is dark, and the only place with space is the Chinese equivalent to KFC. Fortunately the rooms are spacious and there is plenty of hot water for showers.

We decide to not succumb to the convenience of staying at a chicken restaurant for dinner, instead going out across the street. The restaurant has hugely inflated prices, however, about four times that of Beijing for a barely satisfying meal. We are able to negotiate a bit of a reduction, but it the result is still grossly overpriced. It has been an eventful day and we go to bed right after dinner with plans to get an early start in the morning.

Don is a very early riser, so the next morning, we get up at 5:30 a.m., and are out the door 20 minutes later. Again, we have to wake the night guard to let us out as the doors are cabled shut. We are anxious to get to the Great Wall to see the sun rise, due at 6:20 a.m. according to my GPS.

Everything is very quite at this time of day, and we walk the 100 meters to where bridge where the Great Wall passes over the two-lane highway. There is an entrance gate right there, one of several as we are about to see. There is no one about and we are able to walk through the entrance gates without having to purchase tickets. The scene is a quiet majesty, and I am happy to be here before the crowds.

We are the only ones around and the increasing light is starting to bring out the details. We head west, to try and get a better vantage point of the sunrise over the Great Wall. In the area near the highway, the Great Wall has colored flags spaced about 20 meters apart. The wall itself looks brand new in most parts and is thankfully free of trash and graffiti.

Don and I walk up hill to get a better viewpoint for the sunrise. The towers spaced every 100 meters or so have windows looking out over the treed hillsides. The autumn colors are at their peak, a fruit salad for the eyes.

The sunrise is fast, but it takes a while before the rest of the Great Wall can be clearly seen in the distance. We continue and pass another entrance near the top of the hills that is chair-lift accessible and provides a sweeping view of the wall in all directions.

We continue west, and reach the end of the refurbished wall and a sign the says we should go no further. A nearby well-worn path makes it apparent that few people pay it any mind and we do the same.

It is like walking through a door to the past. The unrestored section is wild and crumbly, yet much more interesting to us than the other. We continue for 30 minutes more or so before turning back.

Unrestored section of the Great Wall

Back at the restored section we meet the first people on the wall, four young guys from Jiangxi Province. They are excited to see us and ask if they can have their picture taken with us. Don consents and what we thought would be a one photo turns into four as each one wanted a picture with the two of us by themselves. They are chatty and ask us about our funny biking clothes. The are impressed with the adventure and said they would like to go with us if they had a bike.

Walking back to the main gate we met up with an 82-year old man and his 60-year old son and his wife walking up the steeper sections. This is their first time to the Great Wall as well, and the octogenarian is way ahead.

By 7:30 the trinket and photo suppliers are starting to set up, but fortunately they are subdued at this time of day.

Back at the entrance, a bus unloads a group of Japanese. We head back to the Chicken restaurant to collect our bikes and gear and head north down the hill for some breakfast.

Next: Part 4

Beijing to Chengde Seven-Day Tour Notes: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4

Top of Page

Bike China Adventures, Inc.
Home | Guided Bike Tours | Testimonials | | Photos | Bicycle Travelogues | Products | Info | Contact Us

Copyright © Bike China Adventures, Inc., 1998-2012. All rights reserved.