September 30th, 2008

This morning dawned thick, dank and foggy. The fog was so thick it obscured the other end of the courtyard. It’s clearing up now, slowly, and I can see clearly around this corner of the village, but the mountains up back are still shrouded.

Our trip back up to the village for the holiday was delayed so lzh’s brother could have a place to crash on his way back out to work in Tangshan. That’s alright, instead of a madcap dash from work to Deshengmen to get the earliest possible bus out, lzh could have a leisurely lunch with her brother, check out cheap Nokia phones for her father, then relax at home. And then, because her brother had to be up and out early to get the bus out to Tangshan, we could also get away and therefore back to the village much earlier than usual.

Yesterday also dawned grey and damp, at least down on the plain. It didn’t look like the best weather for a trip to Yanqing, but whatever, it’s not like we’re tourists looking for spectacular scenery.

But all this damp and cold, no wonder my lungs are playing up.

Anyway, I’ll stop the rambling on about the weather with this: Crossing the Jundushan, Beijing’s overcast gave way to blue sky, but there was a thick haze in the Yanqing basin. That haze cleared up well by the afternoon, though.

Well, our original plan was to get on a bus about midday Sunday. That way we could avoid most of the tourist rush and get maximum possible time out here. See, a crowd of Yanqingren heading home for the holidays is a pain in the arse, as all crowds are, but it’s much less hassle than a crowd of bloody tourists. Oh well, that didn’t pan out, so soon after Didi left yesterday morning we packed up the rest of our stuff, got some breakfast and got out.

We got to Deshengmen bang on 8 am- I think that’s the earliest we’ve ever managed. So, the ritual toilet stop- it’s far better to have a totally empty bladder (and gut, should that be an issue) when you get on the bus than to be sitting there in agony legs tightly crossed, sphincters so tensed they make weightlifters look relaxed begging the bus driver to get to Nancaiyuan just a little bit faster….. But to get to the toilet meant a quick preview of the queues. The Badaling queue was long, but only took up half the length roped off for it. The Yanqing queue was longer, but once again only taking up half the roped-off length. Guess they were expecting a lot more Yanqing passengers that morning. Arriving at the toilet meant more queueing. Then back up to join the Yanqing queue.

I didn’t pay much attention to the Badaling bus, but the Yanqing crew were loading two buses at a time- when it’s really busy they go three at a time- so we didn’t have to wait long, and were out of the station by about 8:30.

But of course, not all was plain sailing. There were traffic jams- in one case a very stupid jam caused by some idiot deciding to block a 200-odd metre length of the left hand lane of the expressway just up past Changping town for no obvious reason. Most of the traffic jams were caused by holiday traffic, though. Funnily enough, traffic from the Badaling tunnel to the Badaling off ramp was rather slow.


But the traffic, especially over the mountains was in general much, much smoother than it has been for months. Years of the bus having to slow down for and/or dodge trucks, and month upon month of horribly jammed traffic on that mountain section have finally come to an end now that the new G110s Beijing section has been fully linked up and truck and passenger traffic has finally been separated. Trucks take the new G110, passenger traffic the Expressway. The expected holiday traffic jams aside, the ride was so much smoother and more pleasant than we’ve experienced for ages.

But, well, we cheated. We got off at Nancaiyuan as per usual to get the 920 out to the village, but, faced with the crowds- there were still plenty of locals on their way home for the holiday (I don’t think any of the variations on the 920 theme are of any use to tourists)- we allowed ourselves to be talked into taking a ‘taxi’.

And so we arrived in the village not long after 10 am, which would normally be about the time we leave for Deshengmen.

And hopefully the trip back will be even easier. We’re leaving a couple of days early to attend the wedding of one of lzh’s classmates, and so we should manage to beat the crowds heading reluctantly back to work in the city. The crowds on the way back at the end of the holiday are always more hassle than the crowds on their way home at the start of the holiday. I’m not sure why that is.

And now lzh and her mother are in the county town getting Ma’s back massaged back into shape and no doubt shopping. Ba’s off in the fields working. Harvesting, I would imagine, but oddly enough there’s been no mention of corn so far. Normally that’s the big job over National Day- well, in previous years, it has been. And I’m at home with the dogs, the cat and 50-odd sheep for company, wasting time and money on the internet, drinking copious amounts of tea, as always.

Well, I did go for a short walk yesterday afternoon. I walked up past the local general store- which like most of those scattered through the villages here is a family-run operation in the side room of a regular courtyard with a door knocked through the outside wall- and through the small square that replaced the big pond of skanky water that was there. The square, when that pond was first demolished, filled in and concreted over, was just an expanse of concrete with some bare concrete benches around it. Now it has a ping-pong table, a couple of basketball hoops at either end of a way, way under-sized court, and a few items of that exercise equipment commonly found in Beijing housing estates, as well as two pavillions- one concrete, one wooden- for people to sit and chat in.

Then I went on a short loop through the nearer fields. Some patches had already been harvested, others were being harvested, but in general the fields seemed very heavily pregnant, bursting with produce just about ready to be brought in. And life, too. Birds, insects, and probably I lot more that I could neither see nor here, but which my dog, Zaizai, seemed very much aware of and interested in.

Speaking of pregnant: Ma’s dog Niuniu has a belly so big it looks about ready for half a dozen puppies to burst out at any moment.

Anyway, enough of the rambling. We’re back in Yanqing and it’s good.

Now, maybe I will go out and have a look at some of the village temples that were rebuilt about a year ago….

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