After 15 hours, three airports, and one very frantic plane change in Hong Kong that involved matching stickers and secret doorways, the WRHS Team Chopper landed safe and sound in Beijing. We dropped bags at the hotel and, within 15 minutes, hit the mean streets of Beijing's hutongs for some delicious street food and traditional Chinese beer (it's just beer). It was over a plate of sweet and sour pork that I learned Ben had brought 8 litres of water with him from Australia. Yes, EIGHT LITRES. Why, might you ask? Because there was room in his bag so why not? Plus, whats better than a thirst-quenching bottle of Mount Franklin water when you are way out in remote China? Nothing, thats what! I knew with this level of energy so early in the piece, it was GAME ON.
The next morning we we're on the bus by 8:15 and battling the onslaught of hawkers at the Temple of Heaven by half past. While some teams are defined by their love of strange foods or desire to photograph everything 900 times, this group was clearly making a name for themselves in the shopping department. It if it not screwed to the ground and can be bought, it will be bought! Postcards, coin purses, books, bags, watches, and more will all now call Australia home and it has only been one day.
Touring the Temple of Heaven was brilliant. The fog and light breeze left the weather just right for exploring the spectacular buildings and leafy parklands. One of the early purchase highlights was a Chinese hackysack. It has a heavy metal base and multi-colored feathers. You are meant to kick it on the inside of your foot and pass it across a circle while Chinese people watch and laugh at how terrible you are at it. I posed the "10 in a row" challenge and the whole group accepted. To my chagrin, this lot were brilliant! So brilliant in fact that Chinese people actually wanted to play with us! 40 minutes later we were the life of the party which was sadly cut short by a need for the bathroom and a noodle lunch.
Perhaps one of the most exciting adventures of the Great Wall of China challenge is that first time one uses a squatter toilet. While Darryl and Michelle were fine, poor Lorraine was unsure of both her footing position and which direction to face. In the end she went with bum out so as to not be recognized should someone swing the door open. Good call Lorraine!
After lunch we headed to the Forbidden City where, outside, Nicole was approached by a young boy who clearly had an affection toward the mother of two. She swooped him up into her arms and posed for roughly 7,000 photos as locals and tourists alike snapped away. She and I contemplated stealing him and taking him back to Australia (due to his adorableness) but decided against it for reasons that now seem rather obvious. At one point we literally said to each other, "we will probably get into a lot of trouble, right?" Probably? Really?
Our afternoon at the Forbidden City was fantastic and once again the group were back on the prowl to buy as much Chinese paraphernalia as humanly possible. So far so good. Following our visit we had a short beak to rest our feet and shower before diving into a brilliant dinner of genuine roasted Peking duck. Poor Rodney is highly affected by spicy foods in that they make him cry nonstop and eliminate his ability to form thoughts and sentences. As such, we make sure to lie and tell him green chilis are green beans so we can watch his face turn bright red. Friendly lot, aren't we?
The night came to a close following a spectacular acrobatics show, a 90 minute massage, and a leisurely stroll through the backstreets of our neighborhood. Tomorrow it's onward to the Great Wall with the above lot of socially deviant shopaholics along wit Sandy, Agnes (our fiery Franco-Aussie), Brendon, the other Michelle, Chris, Peter, Paul, and Andrew.
Let's get climbing!