19th September 2016
"Travelling - it offers you a hundred roads to adventure and gives your heart wings” Ibn Battuta
Anticipating having to slice our way through the infamous air pollution and walk under a leaden sky, we were surprised – and delighted – to be greeted on our first day of sightseeing in Beijing with a blue sky and a cool, fresh breeze. An auspicious start to our epic Silk Road Adventure!
A sidetrack before setting off (to be pedantic, historically the Silk Road started in Xi’an) we made a visit to the stunningly beautiful, impressively vast Forbidden City where we stood and tried to imagine what it must have been like to be a wife or concubine of the Emperor and never, ever see the outside world; a chilling thought for us travellers and particularly for Mildred and her fellow female travelling companions.
A trip to the Great Wall left us speechless (literally and metaphorically) as we walked over the steeply undulating contours of the mountain range. Xuanzang said he was glad the wall wasn’t on his route when he went to India to find Buddhist texts; he’d met with enough resistance as it was, from officialdom who didn’t want him to leave China, without having to scale a heavily guarded, huge wall, even if it had been built to keep marauding tribes out of China rather than people in.
We made our way to Xi’an and visited to the terracotta warriors; the Awakened Army, all ready for a march but going nowhere. And after a gathering of supplies (batteries, snacks, water, fruit and a new strap for Odoric’s travel bag) here we are, sitting in the ‘soft sleeper’ waiting room at the train station. A mechanical train instead of a camel train it may be, but we still have an overwhelming feeling of excitement as we embark on our great voyage. Who knows what tomorrow will bring when we arrive in Lanzhou and then on to Xiahe in Shanxi Province, home to Mildred, Francesca and Eve?
Jude is tour leading our 47-day Great Silk Road Adventure trip.
Read previous blog. Next part coming soon.