The Great Wall

This morning we are heading to the great wall near Beijing. We booked a driver for early so we could get there by about 7:30 AM to see the sunrise. We couldn’t get the driver any earlier, but it’s a great price. Travel time is about an hour each way from the Gerber’s place. Then, we will be taking a gondola ride up the mountain to a high point on the wall. The driver apparently will just stay and relax in a tea shop as long as we want, waiting for us for a whole day “rental” of about $70. To get down the hill there is a concrete sled run similar to the one at Paskapoo, (Canada Olympic Park ow I think) in Cowtown. That should be a blast! We packed a lunch so we can sit and relax for a bit along the top just taking it all in (and avoiding the hawkers at the parking lot).

We’re on our way back to Beijing now; what a day! The kids both wrote a bit about what an amazing visit it was. At the bottom of the hill my chest felt compressed with the sheer majesty of the view. For a full 180 degree view we could this this incredible structure snaking up and down, curving and flowing, following the ridges of the mountain. “Breathtaking” barely describes the feeling, and that was before even getting up the hill and touching it! The hill wasn’t much, we would have only taken 40 minutes or so I’d say to climb it. We still opted to ride up though in order to have more time for traversing along it. The gondola was out for a three day service, so we took the chairlift up instead. It was a simple ski hill chairlift and we bought tickets to take the wheeled sled back down. That was hours off though!

The workers started up the chairlift just for us and stopped it to run back inside their break room once we jumped off at the top. I guess they weren’t expecting anyone else for awhile. We actually were the first ones up that morning. That was even cooler than just being there. While the sun was certainly above the horizon, it hadn’t yet crested the hills. First things first, Luke had to go pee, and the lifties told us there was no bathroom close by. So, he got to stand on the lift exit sidewalk and urinate adjacent (a few meters away of course!) to the wall. Then we climbed up and were immediately wowed! The view all around was incredible, and the stonework was just immense.

We later surmised that a few kilometer section had been redone with new large cobblestones for tourists to walk on. This section also was structurally maintained compared to most of the rest which was left to slowly crumble under the elements. I’m not sure how many stratiegic sections like this had been set aside for tourism, but there’s abundant opportunities in 5000km of wall…

We took our time wandering West, stopping to thoroughly explore the towers along the way. At the first tower in that direction we stopped for a snack. We’d all had a quick bowel of cereal before jumping in the car at 6:30 Am in Beijing, but I brought along some leftovers from Sunday Brunch the day before. Who would have thought cold Letty’s brown sugar, maple syrup, special, ultra french toast concoction would be so incredible as I barely got my fork into the shared tupperware with my ravenous family. We had also packed some cheese bread sub sandwiches for later. We discussed going along up to the gondola and then perhaps to the top of the adjacent peak depending upon the time. We had a self imposed deadline of leaving by 1:00 PM in order to pickup our passports and travel Visa’s at the Indian Embassy.

After a very leisurely 40 minutes or so up there alone we heard the chairlift start up, inevitably bringing us some tourist company. We still continued at a pretty leisurely pace, and the young Aussies aught up and passed us while we were exploring an offshoot wall section and they were in a rush. We later caught up and visited with them at the gondola station. The two guys in their tour group had hustled along ahead to reach the top of the peak. We later chatted with them and were told that the last bit was incredibly steep and starting to be a lot more of a ruble walkway than freshly laid stone blocks (in the last 20-40 years I would guess). At the top was a sign forbidding anyone to continue. They also noted that the remainder of the wall was in a fairly decrepit state of disrepair. (As would be expected from 500-600 years of Mother nature’s elements.) They both seemed pretty proud of seeing the “untouched” section of wall in it’s naturally depleted state. I asked if they had taken pictures, but they were in such a rush that they had forgotten.

The girls in their group were fun to talk with. One lady (the lone Canadian in the GAP tour group) said she was from Edmonton when I asked. I asked what state of the US that was in to Claudette’s horrified chagrin. The woman started to try and explain that it was a major city in Canada before I broke into a smile and informed her that I was in fact born and raised there. She was actually from Sherwood Park and was equally shocked when Claudette said her sister, father, Aunts & Uncles and her grandmother all lived there. Here we ate our sandwiches which hit the spot quite nicely. After the girls departed we were along on the walkway and steps of the gondola access, (I need to emphasize that we were not actually on “The Wall”. I then felt the need, and found a nice ledge from which to launch a decent stream. While urinating into the bushes and grass below I sang aloud “I’m the king of the castle…” just to give my grandmother a good chuckle later when the story would be retold to her. Claudette didn’t seem to buy in to this excuse, but it was too late. We then began to head back to the other end for the sled ride down. Along the way vendors had now taken their positions at intervals to hawk ridiculously high priced snack goods to the unprepared tourist (not us in other words). They were pretty aggressive since there was probably only about 100+ tourists along this section which in the Summer Jim estimates the daily crowds to number at almost 1000.

We took the awesome sled ride down and at the bottom of the hill were rows and rows of hawkers and peddlers selling everything one could want. T-shirts were dirt cheap here too, only $1 for the cheap thin cotton and $3 for the heavy & thick nice cotton that won’t fall apart for a long time. We bought a “I climbed…” plaque and a t-shirt or Claudette and I to share. Also, while I was negotiating for a dragon embroidered Hugh Hefner silk robe, the kids were playing hacky-birdie (hacky sack with a large flat nosed end with feathers) with another vendor, so we grabbed that for them to play with too.

We headed back all promptly fell asleep in the car after such an early morning (and late to bed the previous night). The kids came up with an idea I thought was pretty cool. They wondered if someone could walk the entire length of the wall and make a film documentary of that trek. (With all government permits and clearances in place of course!) I’d like to see someone do that some day. Hopefully even, one of them!

2 Responses to “The Great Wall”

  1. Leesa-Maree says:

    It all sounds absolutely awesome! And being the first on the wall in the day – too cool. Eating breakfast in the tower – fabulous. I was thinking of you while you were doing this and was jealous reading Claudette’s Facebook updates. When are you posting the pics?
    China sounds awesome… we may have to add that as a place to visit (when we have money).
    lol Leesie

  2. Rick says:

    That’s a great idea for you guys to try and visit Dubai, when you have a little extra money… And we will fully endorse such an endevour AFTER!!! you have come to Canada to visit… We have the whole trip planned out already and will drive down to Calgary to pick you up, before touring through the mountains (in our new mini van!) to Kelowna and then up to Jasper, back to Edmonton. HURRY!!! 😀

    We’re gonna have to wait ’till India tomorrow or Sunday to find an Internet cafe computer to transfer pics from DVD to the hard drives to upload them. We’ve got three discks waiting to be backed up from Beijing where everything we found was Mac computers with a slot load DVD (that can’t take small discs…).