Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Beijing, China: Part 4: The Great Wall of China

The moment that I'd been waiting for had arrived: I was going to see the Great Wall of China. It was probably the number one thing that I'd wanted to see in China. I don't know about everyone else, but before I traveled to this country just hearing the word 'China' instantly conjured images of the Great Wall. I even remember as a kid learning that the Great Wall was the only man-made object visible from outer space - which, I believe, has been proven to be a myth. And when I say a myth, I mean in terms of being either a) the only man-made object being visible, or b) if, in fact, the Great Wall can be seen at all from outer space by the naked eye. I can't remember which one. But regardless if the Great Wall can be seen from outer space or not, it's a incredible awe-inspiring feat. And perhaps one of the greatest tourist attractions on the planet. Sadly, however, we tend to forget that many lives were lost constructing the Great Wall, and that thousands, if not millions, of people were forced against their will to build it. Many tears and blood were shed, and people who died while constructing the Great Wall were sometimes buried inside of it.

I decided to book a tour through my hostel. I typically tend to stay away from tours, but I had heard good things about it from many people. And the tour that the hostel offered was called the "Secret Great Wall" tour. According to the hostel, we would "hike from the part-restored Ancient Wall (strategic pass of Emperor Li Zi Cheng) to the unrestored & undiscovered Secret Wall. Then return to the Ancient Wall and go for a traditional Chinese lunch. These parts of the Wall are much closer to the Beijing, allowing a shorter travel time. There are also far fewer tourists and no sellers chasing you along the Wall!"

Sounded good to me.

Another reason why I decided to book a tour instead of figuring out a way to see it myself, was because I had met a few nice ladies from Poland in my dorm room who were going. Figuring that the camaraderie of a few nice people could enhance the experience, I went on ahead and booked it.

It took 2.5 hours to reach the Great Wall. Thinking ahead, I brought a long my poncho just in case, God forbid, it rained on us. And it was a good thing that I did because, unfortunately, a strong overcast had moved in and it began to drizzle.

How unfortunate, indeed.

Initially, the clouds that moved in made out for some spectacular scenery. The views from atop the Great Wall were simply breath taking, with lush green vegetation and clouds that gently graced over the mountain ridges. And there really wasn't any tourists around. Not one. It was quite a surreal experience. However, our initial exuberance ultimately came to an utter halt once it began to rain. I quickly opened and hid under my umbrella . . .

Ella ella, ay ay ay
Under my umbrella
Ella ella, ay ay ay
Under my umbrella
Ella ella, ay ay ay
Under my umbrella
Ella ella, ay ay ay ay, ay ay

The winds from the ensuing storm almost turned my umbrella inside out. I thought I was going to be whisked away and blown off the mountain - which would have been fine . . . if I was Mary Poppins.

Sadly, the storm was relentless for most of the 10 km hike. That's a long time to be rained on, especially when hiking through the unrestored sections of the wall, which, at times, was a bit dangerous.

[The pictures below were taken just before the downpour.]

In terms of weather, I may not have had the best of luck. But it sure did make for an interesting experience. Thank goodness I brought along my poncho and umbrella, ella ella, ay ay ay . . .


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