Saturday, June 12, 2004

I survived the Great Wall

Barely. It was what I expected, minus the three quater mile hike up to get to the wall. I guess in my touristy mind I pictured the bus dropping us at the bottom of the wall and letting us go. But of course I forgot that we were going to the original section. We saw pics later of the Badaling section of the wall, which K aptly called "the Disneyland version."

Once you get up to the wall, you can look over this waterway to a different part of it and take great pictures, and then it's a series of steps all the way up to another tower. The steps are varying and not big enough front to back for my big feet. I have a little fear of falling, not a fear of heights, and I spent the entire time climbing while keeping a hand on the wall to steady myself. So that was making me a bit shaking, not to mention that there aren't enough inhalors in China that would have allowed me to make it all the way to the top. Instead, I broke off from the group (did not sit at the bottom Chuck....) and did my own thing. K made it pretty far up and then joined the group on the cable car down. I didn't realize you could get to the cable car and stopped going up at the point when I realized that the further I went up, the more steps I had to climb down. And that was even scarier than going up.

Another group took cable cars and this train thing up, did a short walk, and they were in the middle of the wall. At something like tower 8 of 12. Others went up the way we did and made it all the way to the 12th tower. They were booking it.

Instead, I ran into other members of our group and persuaded them to do this zipline/repelling thing that went down from the wall and over the water. The thing looked like it was built in about 1940 and hadn't been oiled or fixed since then. But I put on my best front and convinced them that it would be entirely safe. So they went for it and I, in all my wisdom by offering, got stuck hauling their souvenirs and cameras back down the hill.

All in all it was quite an experience. Even at your most solitary times there's a local Chinese woman following you or holding on to you and trying to sell you postcards. That kind of destroys the serenity of the moment. But it was strikingly beautiful and a lot less crowded than the more touristy sections. I'd love to go back some time when we have more time and see the entire section. And of course to pick up that "I climbed the Great Wall" tshirt that I passed up this time.