Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Climbing the Great Wall of China

Sunday January 29th 2006

The alarm went off at 5:45am but I was already more or less awake thanks to my trusty internal clock that was waking me up every half an hour throughout the night, not to mention the constant new years firecrackers.

We jumped on the hotel tour bus at 6:30 and arrived at the foot of Jinshanling area at 9:15, and we started to climb the beaten footpath towards the wall. I was winded before we even got to the wall itself. Thank heavens for the trusty Chinese farmers who accompanied us and tossed a quick 'be careful' whenever they heard the slip of a foot.

Once on the great wall, with Mongolia to the left and China to the right, we walked in a group of about seven other young people along the difficult terrain towards Simatai. The steps were never-ending, steep, and crumbling. At some points we had to crawl up using our hands and legs, or at least I did. At other parts I had to bum down the stairs like a little kid.

When you take a look at the pictures, pay attention to the incline and decline of the wall as well as the beauty of it snaking into the distance. Also, remember to note how very empty the entire place was. Besides our small hostel group the wall was empty. We were all alone on the great wall. It was unbelievable.

At one point a tower and the wall didn't quite connect. I thought that if I swung my legs over and lay on my stomach I could reach my legs back down to the wall. I tried it.

"Where are my legs?" I asked a guy who had jumped for it.
"That's the problem, they're nowhere". I was hanging there unable to pull myself up and afraid of what might happen if I let myself drop down. Someone helped me and I was alright. When I walked around the long, safer way, I said to D'Arcy

"Darce, I almost just died."
"What happened?"
"I thought I was invincible."

She thought that was hilarous. I was slightly unnerved.

The views were incredible, as my photos will show, and we traversed the 10 kilometers - that's thirty towers along the wall - in four hours without ever stopping for more than ten minutes at a time. It was probably the most physically exerting experience of my life. I'll never forget it.


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