Day 1: Arriving in Beijing

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Trail Beijing DepartureDeparting from Nice, France.

Departure is just hours away

Its has been several weeks even months that I’ve been working on this project, the logistics, the marketing, the training. Even if I had never ran more than 10km or worked with a sponsor before the start of this project, I wasn’t starting from total scratch.

Apart from my various mountaineering experience and logistics experience in organizing sports trips, I have had support from two mentors, Philipe Gata and Gérard Cain. 

Philipe Gata provided a lot of advice on the project management and practical advice on the autonomy for long distance mountain runs . I also knew that I could get distance running advice and support from Gérard Cain.

Throughout my preparation and training for the realization of this challenge in China, Exel Poles and Keen Footwear have provided me with quality and efficient equipment. Both companies have been fast and reliable when the conditions required.

I would like to thank my family and friends and in particular my spouse. She is so supportive and patient. She brings constant unwavering support, this proof of love that is so important to me, to help with the fulfillment of this project in China over 40 days.

Tonight despite all that, after packing my bag with my plane taking off in a few hours I’m still downloading the last traces in my GPS. The same traces that I received from my contacts in China today that I had to rework a few hours ago.

With the long journey still to come, it starts with a ten hour flight between Zurich and Beijing.

Day 1 : Arrived in Beijing

This morning, actually since yesterday evening, I feel I’m in a dream, conscious but with little control on the proceedings. That is probably due to the long preparation in France and it may continue until I find landmarks, despite the language barrier.

I have arrived in Beijing. The flight was on time, the connections worked-out well and all the luggage arrived.

Trail Beijing ArrivalAt the Chinese border, Beijing airport.

Just out of the airport on the express train that leads to the metro, I already feel that I’m  the only non Asiatic person in Beijing,  totally swamped in the Chinese crowd.

On my metro journey I stop in the train station. It is still early, 6am, hopefully I should avoid the long queues. I absolutely need to get the first train ticket today before I start the running. It is an electronic train ticket that I can collect quite easily with my passport.

Trail Beijing Train stationBeijing central train station in the morning. Normal day.

However, I could not figure out how to buy metro tickets that would be valid in other stations. Thankfully so far the metro officers have been very accommodating :-)

I got little sleep on the plane therefore I’m having a short morning nap. I am already at the hostel and the beds are very hard.

Soon I’m going to buy a Chinese mobile phone and look for a taxi that’s not too expensive to take me for my first run on the great wall tomorrow morning. Going by bus is cheaper but the first bus leaves at 7am and will arrive far too late to let me complete my run in time.

P1040902Selling melons. You find food everywhere!

Lunch and dinner today will be rather easy to source. I see food everywhere! This evening I will go to the night food market before getting back to hostel to finish preparing my bag for tomorrows  run and get to sleep, hopefully not to late..!

I also located the West train station from which I will be departing on the 30th. The hostel is really well located, right in the city center.

Trail BeijingThe street of the hostel. Well kept, not totally rebuilt.

Thirty minutes not cool !

My train ticket disappeared. The train ticket that you must not lose since my trip is right in the national holiday period, that even by booking in advance I only got a seat instead of a sleeper for this night trip. I check my bag 3 times, nothing!

Relief, the ticket had fallen from my passport when I was checking in at the hostel lobby. As I get my ticket back I decide its not good practice to store my ticket in my passport as I will be constantly using it on check-in thought-out my travels.

I have my breakfast and hydration sorted for tomorrow. I bought two bananas, some whole-wheat black sesame biscuits and 3.5lt of water.

Trail BeijingOne of the big pagodas in Beijing city center.

Connected in China

I withdraw some cash and go purchase a mobile phone. Buying a mobile phone with a Chinese SIM card is not that easy. I have with me a piece of paper with some options that have been kindly suggested to me by my neighbour on the long-haul fight that had shown some interest and was very supportive. I go into a first shop and I’m being told that it is not possible. I go into a second shop, same answer. My request is very simple. I try to explain the request written by a Chinese person on paper and this time the sales assistant answer positively! After some phone and SIM card work, I have a mobile phone with a Chinese phone number that can receive calls.

I don’t know if your subscription includes calls to Chinese mobiles, if this is the case here is my number (remember the +6 hours time shift and that 8 days I will be running during the day i.e. let it ring for a while or call back later).

+86 131-6149-6414

Trail BeijingThe street is a public and friendly place.

Everything is going fine

Since I have arrived I’ve made sure to eat and drink properly. I take proteins supplements with minerals and vitamins too, so everything is going fine. My last concerns of the day are logistics (transport).

Mandatory luxury

Last mission of the day is to set-up my taxi for tomorrow morning. It takes some time. First I have to explain where I want to go. It is a location on the Great Wall that is not for tourists, over 70km north from the city. The taxi driver calls a colleague to obtain additional information on the financial side, while I am providing route details with a map. Then I need to agree on the price which I manage to get for half that was been suggested for the early morning start to come, yet it remains expensive.

I will arrive much earlier than by bus but will pay around twenty times more. I hope the taxi driver will keep his promise and be at the rendezvous.

Trail Beijing
When Chinese people come uninvited on the picture :).

Never seen before

  • So much pollution that you can’t see 50m away.
  • Live scorpions sticks (food) to please tourists.
  • A man that shakes trees to collect the dead leaves.
  • People that join in uninvited in pictures.
  • A metro ticket valid only in the station where it was bought.
  • Street dance lessons.

I do expect many others.

P1040915
Live scorpions skewers to please the tourists.

P1040917Part of my diner, very spicy, better have a solid stomach.

Trail BeijingBeijing Night Food Market.

After my trip to the supermarket and the night street food market, I now know how to recognize price per litre, per kilo, per unit, per sticks, whether it is small, medium or large, boiled or braised.

I ate quite well tonight. Its now 8pm and time to get back to the hostel and finalize the preparations of my equipment and sleep. Tomorrow I wake-up at 5am.

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