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Toasting a journey that never ends
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Where do you conclude a journey that you don't really want to end?


To celebrate my 20 years in China we followed the Great Wall from Old Dragons' Head, where it meets the sea, past our Beijing home, across the Yellow River, along the Silk Road, beyond Jiayuguan - the end of the Ming Wall, to Jade Gate, a checkpoint on the Han Dynasty Wall, dating back 2,100 years.


Here the remains of a solitary watchtower stand on a hillock near a small oasis, with desolation all around.


William Lindesay and Wu Qi enjoy a glass of wine at Yang Pass, where they concluded their safari by jeep along the Wall. Piao Tiejun


As a hopeless romantic, the Jade Gate presented itself as an obvious option for concluding this jubilee celebration. My wife's name is Wu Qi and means "beautiful jade".


Another reason was that when I was planning the safari I heard my eldest son James reciting a poem by the Tang poet Wang Wei: "Take another glass of wine for friendship's sake/For west of Yang Pass you won't find any friends."


It rang true for me. Many of my friendships have been nurtured by the Great Wall, most of which now lay behind us, to the east.


As if set up by CCTV, the sun was setting as I uncorked a bottle of wine and poured measures into bronze cups. I toasted Wu Qi, thanking her for planning the trip, because I had just the idea but she did the organizing.


Already, some of the visits, events and discoveries on our 6,450 km drive were becoming treasured memories.


The aim of the sojourn was simple: To celebrate the good fortune of coming to China in the mid 1980s, fulfilling an adventurer's dream, and finding not only a Great Wall, but many great Wall friendships.


This drive allowed me to meet old friends, discover new things, and share the marvel of the Wall with my wife and sons. For me the Wall has been a great classroom, a matchmaker for a wife, and an endless passion.


I believe a journey along the Wall is endless too, it cannot really be finished, only "abandoned". There's so much of it and one journey leads to another.


Camping one night beside the Wall in Gansu, listening to a wild storm in the shelter of our tent, James suddenly said to me in an excited voice: "Dad, can we do another trip along the Wall for your 30th anniversary?"


"That'll be 2017!" I replied, "and yes - but on one condition - that you'll be my driver."


James grinned broadly under his head-torch. We shook hands and said goodnight.


(China Daily February 22, 2008)


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