Tag Archive | nature

A Beijing Escape – Heilongtan Natural Scenic Area or Black Dragon Pond (黑龙潭)

Black Dragon Pond Scenic Area

Black Dragon Pond Scenic Area

Being able to connect with the locals, allows for one to access a ground level view of a city from through the eyes of the resident populace. While blogs can uncover the hard to reach places, the obscure museums, they gloss over mundanities and other unassuming treasures, that may be kept secrets only locals are privy to. Not that they are necessarily hiding them, like a Smegal-ish character and a ring, they just never had due cause to tell anyone of them and never considered them as anything out of the ordinary or worth mentioning. One of these places is Black Dragon Pond, located in Miyun County, some 93KM northeast of Beijing.

Lush wooded areas that provide an excellent escape from the smog, stark and population suffocation of Beijing.

Lush wooded areas that provide an excellent escape from the smog, stark and population suffocation of Beijing.

The reason I found out about this place is that we were going there on a work outing with the company I was with. In fact, even as we headed there, trying to a get the name of the place and it’s location were a difficult task, as no one on our bus seemed to know where we were going and if they did, they weren’t able to translate it into discernable English. The ride on a rented bus, went through some beautiful countryside, mountainous, lush green covered cliffs overhead and even a glimpse at small, crumbling watch towers, curiously peaking out over the foliage like fearful, but interested rodents, their black window eyes, part of the Jiangjun Pass of the Great Wall. The ride was accompanied by a barrage of Chinese singing, laughter, charades, mocking of the three foreign teachers who understood nothing and were attempting to sleep off hang overs, which was near in possible by the vocal screeching, the over zealous chants and the electronic screech of an unnecessary amplification device.

Bumpy, noisy and all the other terrible dwarfs.

Bumpy, noisy and all the other terrible dwarfs.

The GREAT wall!

The GREAT wall!

Finally, the suddenly subduing of the amplified yammering and sing-song indicated that we had arrived. The group waddled off the bus. First stop was the barely distinguishable rest room. We cued in a line for the single revolting stall, with mixed emotions. The two foreign male teachers sought elsewhere to relieve themselves, knowing of the terror that waited them in that bog of horrors. When the foreign teachers had finished, we scampered over (trying to find creative movement terms) to an unmarked white building, and upon entering it, realized we were in some sort of information center for the Miyun area, complete with a Houston Control like archaic observance display.

1970s computer magic.

1970s computer magic.

After everyone had completed their one, twos or a combination of both, we entered the Heilongtan area through an ominous structure that served as a ticket booth. The Natural scenic area comprises of a 4km hike, through a cavern, along what appears to be a manmade river. This isn’t a rural hike through nature. There are well-maintained stairs, benches and trash bins as well as the occasionally overpriced food and chachkas kiosk for all your necessary and unnecessary needs. You can also rent boats to survey the small droplets of water by boat. Oh, also, none of the drops of water are connected, so the boat rides are constrained to the area of a children’s pool to pouring out the contents of bottle water into a bread tin. Surprisingly, there were English signs, that are ultimately comedic components to their Mandarin counterparts. What one can draw from this, is that no matter how vast China is and how little the components that make it up are, China’s pride and drive to dominant and control, make naming even the most bereaved of interest things, an important undertaking. The names of each tiny pond and cave echoes this concern, with names like The Miren Caves, the Suspending Pond and what it titled “the masterpiece”, the underwhelming “Black Dragon Pond”. Oh, but don’t miss the “Dripping Pool”, the mysterious “Reed Pool” and the where the fuck is it? “Hedgehog Stone”. All worth to read the signs and stare down upon these stagnant beauties.

Eating unknown berries. Seems safe, says Nora.

Eating unknown berries. Seems safe, says Nora.

Well maintained paths and bridges.

Well maintained paths and bridges.

After several steps, many of my coworkers, who never take more than several steps, were exhausted. But with a lot of encouragement and several taunts, most of them were rallied to make it to the top. On the top, we admired the pools from above from the viewing platform, had a snack, one of 85 snack breaks we had that day and headed down the same stairs, greeting other coworkers who were sill trying to make it to the top. Dejected, many of those who were ascending, started to descend with the rest of the group. Lucky no one had to be fireman carried. I was prepared to do so. Never the bottom, a red foam pad bridge, attached by ropes, had several of us attempting to cross it, without flipping the pads and sending yourself into the drink. It tempted several of us, including my boss and myself, to attempt, fail and fail some more, soaking our prides and clothing, in water that smelled of the sweat of the elderly. After leaving Heilongtan, we drove for ten minutes for a 100-course lunch and beer. After consuming ten times my weight, we went to a pool, where we were allowed to boat, play ping pong (which I actually was able to hold my own against others, which surprised myself), as well as go in this big inflatable ball that floats on the water, which you run in to make it spin. It’s hysterical, when several people are in it and are completely out of sync, flipping each other laughing at their incompatibility. Several drop kicks to the face it’s not as fun. Yet even more amazing than this wondrous tool of revelry was that some of my coworkers opted out participating in this part of the day because the hike had tired them out and they needed to sleep in the bus. Wow. Wheelchair ‘em now, Dan-O.

View from the top

View from the top

Really enticing sign!

Really enticing sign!

Eat til you fall down meal

Eat til you fall down meal

Directions are below, as well as an additional gallery. If you liked this please follow, like and share as well as follow me on twitter @pedaleachmile. Follow my adventures on here and at https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL59E469A3DF414464.

DIRECTION AND COST:

ADMISSION: 35 RMB

DIRECTION:

I have to say, I have not personally gone here by public transit, so what I am pulling off the internet is a conference of several sources.

  1. Take bus 980 or 980 (express) at Outside Dongzhimen Station, and then get off in Miyun Drum Tower Station. Walk southwest about 656 feet (200 meters) to Miyun Theatre Station. Then take buses Mi-60, Mi-61, Mi-62, Mi-63, Mi-65, Mi-66, Mi-67, Mi-68, and get off at Black Dragon Pool Station. A

Again, before getting on a bus, show them the symbols for Black Dragon Pond, just to verify as buses change frequently.

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Checklist Traveling – Seeing the World as Opposed to Experiencing It

Sometimes it's tough to just sit and let nature entrance you. I use it during stressful times in travel as "a bring me back to earth" tool.

Sometimes it’s tough to just sit and let nature entrance you. I use it during stressful times in travel as “a bring me back to earth” tool.

Tourism in China is a weird thing. The Olympics of 2008 in Beijing spotlighted this once stigmatized powerhouse in a new light and the influx of tourists, curious to discover it’s rich history and culture, came pouring in from all directions. And the Chinese government sort of understands the process to deal with this. People want to be able to access the sites, the flavors and people that Maoist China tried to subjugate, repress and ultimately uniform (They use none of those terms, nor did the Maoist government do ANYTHING like that).

A temple way out of Beijing. Jietai Temple and Tanzhe Temple were beautiful daytrips, off the beaten path, that we could enjoy at our own pace without the throngs of people, as well as not feel the need to SEE it out of innate urge to complete something.

Temples way out of Beijing. Jietai Temple and Tanzhe Temple were beautiful daytrips, off the beaten path, that we could enjoy at our own pace without the throngs of people, as well as not feel the need to SEE it out of innate urge to complete something.

Their solution to this semi-new venture, tourism, is what’s strange. Like a flawed translation on many English signs throughout China, there seems to be a bit of a miscommunication of what international tourists are interested in seeing and how what their interested in seeing is expected to be presented. That’s a vast generalization, but for myself, if fly half way around the world to see something, I want to see something that is at least somewhat authentic and real. That’s the difference between seeing it in person and via media. Attached to this authenticity is an indescribable feeling of achievement, a connection to something beyond one’s own world, and the thrill of experiencing, immersing and discovering something new for yourself. Yet China’s approach to their unique cultures, languages and especially places, is reconstituting, rebuilding, modifying rather than preservation. Many of the historical sites that survived the Red Guard are being remodeled to provide a Disneyland-like, rather than an emerging experience in history. The grit, the real businesses, even the buildings themselves, have been replaced by five star accommodations, vendors selling chachkies and pre-fab, historical facades. One of China’s famous UNESCO heritage sites, Lijiang, almost lost it’s heritage status for attempting to rebuild the ancient black tiled roofed town as a resort, after one of it’s many earthquakes. It’s everywhere. Look in your China guidebooks. 9 times out of 10, the historical building you are standing in has been rebuilt. From Qianmen Business District in Beijing (torn down and rebuilt exactly the same) to large sections of the Great Wall.

Lamont, Alberta. Never heard of this place? Very cute town near Edmonton. Buildings, like Churches, for me, act as inspirational places during travel to just sit in, engage with, immerse yourself in and possibly be inspired. These structures, are many intricate parts woven together that are worth paying attention to, exploring and considering. Imagination runs wild in these places, all you need to do is let it.

Lamont, Alberta. Never heard of this place? Very cute town near Edmonton. Buildings, like Churches, for me, act as inspirational places during travel to just sit in, engage with, immerse yourself in and possibly be inspired. These structures, are many intricate parts woven together that are worth paying attention to, exploring and considering. Imagination runs wild in these places, all you need to do is let it.

Though maybe this is a very North American stance on tourism. Maybe China is focused on local tourism, since for Chinese nationals, it’s very difficult to impossible to leave the country. On that subject, I simply have my observations of large buses, unloading their leader with their volumed up megaphones and umbrellas, followed by hoards all wearing the same hats, so they know who they should follow, blending into an earthen colored mass, filling up quaint, quiet and historical places with bursting commotion, noise and refuse. Pictures are snapped, mechanically, fingers are held in peace signs, or two hands come together to complete an unbelievable heart, occurring in no matter what venue, winding cobblestoned street or tranquil holy temple. I fear though that the “real” China that the international community strives to locate is fast becoming theme parks, parades or simply, like the hutongs of Beijing and Shanghai, being demolished for shinier, newer facilities, that cheaply emulate something that could have stood for a thousand more generations.

The Details. Yes it's a butterfly. They exist everywhere. but this specific butterfly lives where I was, within a specific moment I saw it in. That alone is special enough and can be appreciated without adherence to a standardized hierarchy of importance.

The Details. Yes it’s a butterfly. They exist everywhere. but this specific butterfly lives where I was, within a specific moment I saw it in. That alone is special enough and can be appreciated without adherence to a standardized hierarchy of importance.

Photo of the Day – Dutch Crash Museum

It's an aviation type of museum. Not as exciting as what my imagination could drum up.

We were rushing for the border. Day 3 and we were crossing from The Netherlands into Germany. And yet, our Dutch friends never ceased to amaze us. This museum sign is literally in the middle of nowhere on some back country road. Since of our hurry we never did get to check it out. Lucky for me, the internet let me have a second chance. PS, my friend biked all the way to Budapest, this being his only faux injury. No poles with museum signs were harmed during the taking of the picture.

The crash museum website:

Crashmuseum-Avog – UK

Photo of the Day – Apocalypse Now San Symphony

Helicopter, constantly landing and taking off

Camp Pendleton, California. America is scared, in a constant state of readiness. The enemy is not an outside virus, but a cancer, unrecognizable deep in the capillaries and veins of the each state. And though, the painting looks unified from a distance, closer up, you can see the harsh hatch work of troops in green fatigues in well drilled marches, odd white bubble satellites  on the side of arid landscape hills monitoring each phone call where Russia is mentioned and Apocalypse Now helicopters, dark brushstrokes in the sky, up and down, every moment taking off and landing. It’s not entirely true and just gave me a chance to be a bit floral with language without getting too abstract, but there is something to it. Why is there this massive base in Southern California? A militarized city in the desert? A helicopter, so big, that if you hadn’t noticed it’s approached, you’d feel it, darken your skin to ash, eclipsing the circumference of the sun.

Photo of the Day- Apocalypse Now Sans Symphony

Helicopter, constantly landing and taking off

 

 

Camp Pendleton, California. America is scared, in a constant state of readiness. The enemy is not an outside virus, but a cancer, unrecognizable deep in the capillaries and veins of the each state. And though, the painting looks unified from a distance, closer up, you can see the harsh hatch work of troops in green fatigues in well drilled marches, odd white bubble satellites  on the side of arid landscape hills monitoring each phone call where Russia is mentioned and Apocalypse Now helicopters, dark brushstrokes in the sky, up and down, every moment taking off and landing. It’s not entirely true and just gave me a chance to be a bit floral with language without getting too abstract, but there is something to it. Why is there this massive base in Southern California? A militarized city in the desert? A helicopter, so big, that if you hadn’t noticed it’s approached, you’d feel it, darken your skin to ash, eclipsing the circumference of the sun.

Photo of the Day – Beautiful Foliage

San Diego Bushes

The exact point of change seems to not exist. Maybe it happens in minute evolutions, so pint size that only if you were paying close attention and knew what to look for you’d see it. Trees in the north, grew even larger by Northern California and transformed into mammoth sequoias, muting the light from the sun, a natural roof of green and brown. Wild flowers were more colourful in So Cal, yellow, purple floral lining between the road and the endless stretch of baked white beach. Even bushes, one of the most unrecognized plant for it’s beauty, now grew up the side of steep inclines, A Van Gogh of dotted, precise colours, that as that landscaper could tell you quite frankly, needed constant maintenance or it would burst forward, a continuous growth of foliage, enveloping all living and inanimate things in it’s path, a picturesque, less gelatinous blob. Kudos California bushes, Canadian bushes….take note, that’s how you get attention, not by being prickly.

Photo of the Day – Rare Pines in the City

This piece of beauty lies within the city limits of a sprawling mecca. San Diego to be exact, the last big American city before Mexico (there are a few smaller places before California ends and Mexico begins….unexpected, smaller places that you only find out when you think you’ve made it to Mexico by bicycle once you’ve hit San Diego only to realize you have four more cities, a least, to pedal through before your victory dance commences). Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve only is what it is because a few nature enthusiasts saw the importance of maintaining the rugged, natural landscape that existed before it was dipped in concrete, sprinkled with bits of steel and sold to aimless suits and ties and skirts, who meant to make it by building skyscrapers with windows facing other viewless windows on even bigger skyscrapers.

Don’t read into the description wrong, I love those big skyscrapers and their histories. I love hearing of the odd personalities that once sat behind the old oak desks and spewed out decisions to their underlings or the shoe shop owner who lost it all by investing in two million pairs of the shoes that didn’t make the fall fashion. The millions of continuous stories and people watching, make these buildings as vitally interesting to me as the “landmarks”, the religious centres, the “must see before you die”s. History is not too much different from gossip, with our interests lying in the unabashed, the more display filled and unbelievable epics, but also in the minutia of day to day life.  I find the functional and dysfunctional, the awe of the past and how the present came to be, the rust and the sheen, as equally as enticing and question riddled.

Anyways, I’ll get into that when I am not as zonked out as I am right now. Nature was something I had little to no desire seeking out before traveling. I liked history and nature to me was just untapped land that would look way better with, I dunno, a temple to Zeus to engage your imagination or an aqueduct running through it’s tundra or mountain scape. That’s before I travelled a realized that the shapes that I had associated with nature were as varied as the building styles of all cultures and that they too had their stories. In fact, much of what I respected in the man made monoliths, the variance, the impossibilities of balance,  were stolen from their larger, and more natural predecessors.

Torrey Pine Sate Natural Reserve was one of those places where it was as if nature took offense to my attitude toward it and and flung open it’s insides to reveal the dramatic curves of it’s jutting rock edges, where these rare pines cling desperately perched over thousand foot drops into the banging percussion of the emotionally churned blue sea’s clambering waves. Such a fool I was to doubt the thousands and thousands of whispering words that nature’s picture drenched my soul in. And yet with all the words merry go rounding in my innards, I stood silent, letting the my surroundings piously brag to me.

The edge and bottom of California - Torrey Pines Nature Reservation