January 1st, 2008

We’re back after three cold days in Yanqing. I mean, that wind was great, but it really dropped the temperature, and combine that with the gain in altitude and absence of Beijing’s heat island, and it was just a tad on the chilly side. Winter has finally arrived.

But that wind was great, it cleared the air out really well. I was surprised to see only a mild haze off in the distance as we popped out on to the plain at Nankou, and the Xishan standing clear and stark against the sunset horizon.

I was also surprised with the traffic. On the way out on Sunday morning, on the Second Ring heading around to Deshengmen (from the southeast, just to be clear), it seemed that everybody was heading southwards, leaving us an almost unobstructed run around to Deshengmen. And from what we saw as we crossed under Jinsong Qiao, it seemed to be the same story on the Third Ring. And then there were far fewer people at Deshengmen queuing for the bus than I expected. Usually at the start of a holiday there’s a queue of at least 100 metres of mostly Yanqing locals heading home, and only a tiny, tiny queue for Badaling. And they always put on a whole lot of extra buses to cope with the holiday rush. But this time the queue was only slightly longer than a regular winter weekend, maybe 25 metres. Fortunately, they still had all the holiday extra buses on, so we were on a bus very, very soon after we arrived. I think the only time I’ve got on a 919 at Deshengmen quicker was that Thursday morning heading up for the wedding. And then the traffic was no heavier than a regular weekday. I guess the holiday helped remove a lot of the truck traffic that always slows the trip over the mountains- either because the police stopped them from running or forced them to take State Highway 110 (which separates from the Badaling Expressway at Changping town) over the holiday period, or because they took the holiday off (hmmm… seems unlikely) or both.

And the traffic on the way back was just as good. A pity, though, that some bright spark decided that we’d have to buy our tickets/swipe our cards before getting on the bus at the Yanqing station. That slowed down the loading process so that the rush back to work took far longer than it should’ve even though they were loading two and even three buses at a time. But once we were on the bus it was all good.

I don’t know what happened to make the holiday traffic so smooth, but I like it.

But the air up in Yanqing was spectacular, as only Yanqing in the winter can manage. A dry, hard, cold, crystalline air, and so pure. On the 31st, we could see clear across the basin in every direction from the gate of the courtyard- other courtyard walls permitting, of course. If I’d climbed up the mountains to the irrigation channel- or perhaps if I’d only climbed as high as the road that runs along the top of the fields at the very base of the mountain, separating orchards from forest restoration area, and if I had a good enough camera (the other big limiting factor apart from my laziness), I could’ve taken photos of the Badaling area a good 30-odd kilometres away, or the Kangxi area on the opposite side of the reservoir. But I don’t have that good a camera and apart from a visit to Ergu I didn’t bother going anywhere.

Anyway, there’s more that could be written, but I’m tired and smelly and I want a shower. It’s been three days, you see. I smell, and my hair is icky.

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