The Wall

Trip Start Mar 14, 2006
Trip End Mar 15, 2007

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Monday, May 1, 2006

Ugh, up at 6am just to go climb a wall.

Had porridge this morning for the first time in seven weeks, with honey and banana, seeing as I figured I would need the energy to hike along the wall which I'd been told was a tiring slog, not the thing you want to hear when you can still barely open your eyes.

There were seven of us from the hostel missing enough marbles to get up at this time, Nick & Jane (from Australia but heading to Scotland), Brandon (Australia), Melinda (USA), Dave (Canada) and someone from Switzerland who I cannot remember the name of unfortunately.

We all piled onto the bus for the long trip to get to the wall which took 1.5 hours just to get out of the city with most of that seemingly spent sitting outside the Hard Rock cafe with the great "No Drugs or Nuclear Weapons Allowed" sign above the door.

We arrived at the wall at Jinshaling 5 hours and one toilet stop later but at least we stopped which is better than the poor kid in the back of the pick-up truck in front of us on the road taking a number 2 out of the back as it sped along - when you gota go you gota go I suppose.

It was hot, really hot, and just the climb up to the hill to get onto the wall saw as stopping at the top to catch our breath which we needed anyway as the view of the wall stretching as far as you could see towards the horizon in either direction left us breathless. The reward for the long journey to this section of the wall beside the great views was the lack of other tourists and commercialization surrounding the wall with the wall remaining relatively untouched and rugged, or un-Starbucked.

The 10km hike to Simitai was pretty tough going at times with some really steep sections requiring scrambling on all fours with sheer drops on either side. The watchtowers along the way provided a welcome relief from the sun and usually were reached after climbing a set of steps which drained the energy from your legs. Despite the lack of commercialization there was still some entrepreneurs about selling water and "I climbed the Great Wall T-Shirts" although I never saw a "I collapsed on the Great Wall" one which may have been more appropriate.

After about 2.5 hours we reached Simitai where we would get the bus back but only after one last long set of steps which on rounding the final corner, and noticing a pair of Germans behind me, both gave out a despairing "Nein!". Some things require no translation.

Reaching the top of the final ascent with just a long walk down the road to the bus we all opted for the flying fox or zip line option down over the river and then onto a boat to the end to simply save the hike down the road.

Back in Beijing I finally cracked and had a western meal for the first time since starting travelling so I decided if I was going to perform such a cultural crime in Beijing of all places I would go the whole hog and ordered a Big Mac meal from McDonalds along with Dave for just over 1 pound.
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