Great God It is a Great Wall!!!!

Trip Start Jan 13, 2009
Trip End May 17, 2009

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Friday, January 16, 2009

After my directional challenges the day before, and because it is so cold, I decided, not to take the advice of a couple of girls I met here at Happy Dragon, and take the easy route by booking a tour to the Great Wall. The place at the wall I wanted to see is about 65kms outside the City and is pretty remote to get to by yourself.  Waited at the door of Happy Dragon with three other people - a Swedish couple who just arrived, from Sweden, on the train, Trans Siberian Railroad!  Who knew?  Not me -but I am now interested - 6 days and nights and they loved it,  And a English girl.  Car arrives - not a minivan - a car the size of an old corolla.  Hmm.  Again.  Hmmmm.  Apparently that is way too many for one car, with driver and guide.  Hmmm.  Some negotiations and I was the only one going because I couldn't go today as I had plans!!!  On the way we picked up an Irish couple on the way from Australia to home - man they were freezing.....poor sentence structure - they actually were not really 'on the way' - you know - they had a stopover....
The five of us off to the Wall.  Bright and Sunny and Cold.  Our driver was a maniac and kept playing chicken with rural families on bicycles.  The Iris couple and I were wedged in the back seat and they tied their seat belts on they were so scared.  Me? Que sera sera.  It did get tens about a half hour in when the car had fully fogged in, including the windshield, and the driver gave up trying to clear a hole to see.  I took a picture of the windshield from the back seat.  I will try and upload it!!!!  Funny if you were not the one in the vehicle and now we were in the mountains.  Obviously we arrived and yup - it is a great wonder of the world.  words cannot describe it.  I didn't =know that only small portions of the wall are accessible - This portion having been rehabbed by a German company in 1997.  Methinks they might be the cable car company???  Their are two huge cable cars that access a couple of points - I think there is about 10 km of this portion of the wall open.  We took one up and it was truly spectacular.  And we pretty much had the place to ourselves as we left at 7:40 am and beat the tour buses.  Our guide said it is not a busy as the closet place to Beijing, but still thousands and thousands are there in the summer.  There were about 50 of us on the wall - total.  The Irish guy and I climbed the 3? km stretch to the top and the vistas were as beautiful as the top of Mt Sinai.  Dad, you would have loved it - I know how you loved Mt. Sinai and the feeling was similar here.
It was as perfect a winter day as you could get - clear and crisp and we were really sweaty by the time we made it to the top part.  Memorable.
Lunch was included and the 3 of us the only ones in the Restaurant - the guide and driver went to play MahJong.  Nice.  Makes Winter travel worthwhile when you have these kinds of experiences.

Came back and crashed for a couple of hours then received an invitation from Wit (Lynn Cunningham's husband) - he works in China quite often and arrived a couple of days before me. Wit and his friend Sam made their way to my Hostel - they are 5 star kinds of guys but pretty impressed with what you get for $20.00.  Free Internet too - Wit has to pay for his at the Sheraton Great Wall!!!  We went out for a fantastic truly Chinese feast at a very fancy restaurant in a traditional part of the City.  We had our own room and our own Wait staff.  Peking Duck and every dish imaginable - the food just kept coming.  As I didn't want beer or wine - I was looking for a fruity frozen umbrella type drink.  Wit and I found a \fresh corn juice' on the Menu and it turned out to be fresh squeezed warm corn!!!  Tasted just like drinking creamed corn - rather filling and might be good with toast to dip????  Catherine, an old friend and previous colleague of Wit and Sam's joined up for dinner and we had a great Geo political discussion.  It is beyond my ability to comprehend the changes one generation has seen and lived through in this country.  From a closed communist controlled state to a communist capitalist model.  A real gift to be able to learn from them and hear of their experiences.  1.3 billion Chinese and it works, differently rural to urban but their successes are mind boggling. 
Oh yeah and the big news here is all about New Years or Spring Festival.  Seems I couldn't have picked a worse time to be anywhere the Chinese might be traveling.  This is their bug holiday - as in Vietnam.  Schools have been out for a week already and everything closes down after next weekend for about 15 days.  Sam and Catherine tell me many people travel to Thailand and everywhere - let's be serious - 1.3 billion on holiday impacts the world.  I need to find a place to wait out the travel masses for a couple of weeks as I know trains, planes and buses are fully booked our of here.  After my three days in Bangkok????  Hope I will not be wandering????  At least it will be warm.
Off right now to meet Wit for Breakfast and then he is taking me shopping - real shopping.  And he has offered to bring stuff back for me.  NICE.

Again thanks for all the notes.  For those of you with limited attention spans - sorry for the long blogs - just know I am well and thanks for caring.
Love Deb
Will try the photo thing when I have more time.
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