I remember having a ViewMaster when I was a kid, a loooong time ago. One reel was of the Wonders of the World and on it was the Great Wall of China. I remember being amazed by it and hoping that I would one day stand on it. I didn’t think I would actually have the opportunity though. Last year on New Year’s Day, as I was eating my pork and sauerkraut, if you had told me I’d be living in China and would welcome 2012 by climbing the Great Wall I would have spurt(ed?) pork and sauerkraut on you.
We were thrilled to see the sun in Beijing and figured that if it was sunny there the chance of it being sunny in the countryside was even greater. Not sure if you know this but Beijing is infamous for its smog. We had a tour guide and car take us for the 1 1/2 hour car ride. I guess it was that long. I don’t know. I was so taken with the change in scenery, watching the mountains emerge, catching glimpses of the Wall from a distance, and looking at the towns and villages we passed through that I have no idea how long it took to get there.
The first thing you do upon emerging from the car is walk the gauntlet of vendors. These people are just trying to scratch out a living selling anything and everything associated with the Wall. However, if you travel you know the one thing you don’t do is MAKE EYE CONTACT! It’s not always easy but if you don’t want to buy don’t look them in the eye. If you do, you might as well just take out your wallet before you ever say a word. We escaped unscathed.
We took a cable car to the entrance and as we rode up I thought about the men that built the wall. They carried the stones to the top of the ridges from the bottom! Walking! Using their backs! No cable cars! It’s difficult to imagine how difficult a feat that is until you see how the Wall conforms to the contours of the ridges and mountaintops. No wonder it took 1,800 years to finish. It’s also 5,500 miles long, that may have something to do with it as well 🙂
Walking up and actually putting my foot on the wall was awesome. Not a very descriptive word, I fall short using it but I can’t describe the feeling of seeing something that I dreamed about as a child and seemed so remote that I thought I would never have the experience. I still can’t put into words how I felt but I am smiling just thinking about the day. It was a moment to be savored. And then the moments needed to be savored with a camera. How could you take a bad picture of the Great Wall of China on a sunny day?! We were very fortunate that the sun was out and there was no snow. As much as I would have liked snow it would have made walking dangerous. As it was there was a dusting and the few spots that didn’t see the sun were slippery. Climbing up and down steps, and walking up and down ramps wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was going to be. You just had to be careful. I was also in better shape than I thought too. There was very little huffing and puffing. I was surprised at how warm it was. I had many layers on including silk thermals and was prepared for the worst. In the end I took off my winter coat, hats, and gloves. We were fortunate indeed.
We walked for quite a bit, climbed to the tops of some watch towers, and took it all in. Andrew and I stopped so many times to take photos. At the hotel as I went through my photos I realized that I took the same shot both coming and going. Again, I was so busy enjoying the experience that I have no idea how long we stayed. Just know that it wasn’t long enough.
I still can’t believe that I started 2012 on the Great Wall. Not only that but we were able to have Andrew along. The only thing better would have been to share it with Kiersten and Steven. (Their turn will come this summer.) Yep, I get to go back. Pinch me.
4:30PM – 64°