Without a doubt one of the top attractions of taking this tour was the opportunity to have a second visit to The Great Wall. The first time had been a bit of a disaster, then we had visited the Badaling section and it was horrendously overcrowded. I was praying that this time would not be a repeat.
The good news was unlike last time, we would head straight to the wall in an attempt to beat the crowds and also, we were going to a different section, this time to the Juyongguan section.
Fortunately we had at least had a good nights sleep before departing at 7.30am and we had recovered from our sleep deprived previous day.
Our first view of the wall suggested that it was getting busy already!
The three tour buses that were part of our group had all arrived at roughly the same time and there was a Champagne celebration laid on as part of the tour. Why we were offered this before attempting the wall I don't know but I declined my glass as I was anxious to get going.
The section up to the first tower was tough going. My sciatica problem came back with a vengeance but I was determined I wouldn't be beaten. Gradually the pain reduced, the crowds thinned the higher we got .
After a couple of towers we virtually the only ones carrying on!
The views were stunning and the higher you went the easier it became.
OK the wall has obviously been rebuilt and there is even a hand rail which in some parts is extremely useful, but the structure is still very, very special.
Yes we made it as far as you can go to the very top and back down again!
It was a really satisfying occasion and made up for the last time completely.
At least the land tour company had got it right this time.
By the time we were back at the bottom it was a lot busier but how many would make it to the top I wouldn't know.
From what I saw only 7 of our 67 did so, mind you I suppose our average age was higher than the norm!
I could have stayed much longer but for those hanging around at the bottom an hour and a half was quite a wait so next stop it was off to a Jade Factory, just like last time. Here they cater for large numbers of tourists and provide lunches to entice stopping there. Of course their huge superstore was were they also wanted you, and that is were we were left to wander for quite some time after a short introduction on the qualities of Jade and a demonstration of it being worked.
An unmemorable Chinese buffet lunch over we drove back to Beijing and a visit to the Summer Palace.
Although it was sunny it was windy and bitterly cold. My legs decided they needed a rest so I left Claire to wander around the lake with some friends.
I sat and recovered! Still, the good news was at least I had an opportunity to photograph some Azure-winged Magpies that flew over.
Wildlife sighting had been very thin on the ground but it was all I had expected.
Better than nothing though!
All that remained of the day was to meet up with a friend of ours who lives in Beijing.
She picked us up by taxi at our hotel and took us to a restaurant she'd been recommended which specialised in Hot Pot.
The huge place was heaving and the wait for a table considerable. Must be popular as they won't let you book in advance.
It was certainly an interesting experience and one I'm glad we tried. Totally different to anything we have done before but reminiscent of an oil fondue. The waiter took the order on an iPad and while we were still ordering the first bits arrived. Amazing service.
Friend Connie had ordered two different Hot Pots, a spicy one and one that Claire could handle!
You then order separately meat and vegetables that you drop in the by now bubbling hot oil.
The waiter took pity on my efforts to retrieve food from this bubbling cauldron with the aid of chopsticks, the bits that didn't float were hard to see and moving around at speed. I would have starved if it wasn't for a fork!
The locals didn't have such problems of course.
It was a great way to end a special day and had it not been for Connie one we wouldn't have had the opportunity to try.
Bidding her a sad farewell back at our hotel we wouldn't meet up again for several months, but we are going on a safari with her in 2018 and we should see some wildlife there!