We are now in Beijing, our final city in China. At the northern end of Beijing, I gave a full day “short course” to 90 graduate students at China University of Petroleum. They have an active AAPG student chapter and although many are in a petroleum track, they had penetrating questions about Mars geology. Some students from the AAPG chapter in Qingdao made a 270 km trek here to participate in the short course.
On the day we arrived, it was the first time we had really seen deep blue sky, but unfortunately it didn’t carry over to the day we went to see the Great Wall of China. Still, the Great Wall is everything you have heard and seen and more. Like the Terracotta Warriors, it is hard to describe as it is so unique, and the scale is so impressive over such mountainous terrain. We got up very early to walk in the cooler part of the day and to avoid some of the intense crowds. When we first arrived, the parking lot only had a few dozen cars. A few hours later when we returned, the parking lot looked full with dozens and dozens of tour buses all idling to keep the air conditioning going (a sigh for global warming…..). The wall has been reconstructed in many parts, and the grey brick steps are heavily cupped from so much foot traffic. Some parts are very steep and sometimes slippery even though it isn’t wet. Visitors of all ages crowd up or down the popular section where some ride a gondola to the top, and/or take a sled ride down. We hiked one section to Gate 12 where it is a dead end segment. That was the part I enjoyed the most because hardly anyone was on that segment and you really get a feeling of the expansiveness that required the efforts and lives across so many dynasties.