The Great Wall and Great Expectations

Trip Start Jul 22, 2011
Trip End Aug 12, 2011

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Where I stayed
What I did
Acrobatics Show
Dream City of Stone at Mutianyu

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Monday, July 25, 2011


It's raining today, but that doesn’t dampen our spirits as we listen to the rain and windshield wipers as we drive 1.5 hours to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall.   We have great expectations – since we were kids, we knew about China’s Great Wall, and now we’re actually going to be there.  What a kick!

The combination of a weekday and rain seems to have made this a slow day at Mutianyu as there is virtually no line to get our tickets for the cableway to Tower 14.  Other tourists have umbrellas but we’re suited up in our trusty waterproof rain jackets with hoods and lightweight quick drying pants.   As we ascend in the cable car into the fog and rain, there is almost zero visibility.  I am so excited that the implication of this doesn’t immediately come into my awareness.  When we step off the cable car, there is a warning sign about the slippery conditions and advising us to look out.  No worries, I have every intention of keeping my eyes wide open and absorbing everything I can. 

Our first steps on The Great Wall will always be imprinted on the screen of my mind.  You can see what we saw in the first photos in the slideshow.  What do you see?  I gazed at the stones of the wall, the pathway and the fog wrapping around the distant fortifications and saw that the rain had paused for the moment.  I kind of squinted my eyes to remove the few people that were there at the time and felt transported to some mysterious time and place that was quietly and shyly revealing itself.  I took a deep breath.  What a treat to be here with this fog draping around the mountains and The Wall, what fantastic images my camera will capture!  Before we started to walk to our left, a German tourist who sees me taking photos says to us how disappointed he is with the weather conditions and that he won’t be able to take really good photos.  He was expecting better visibility where you can see the wall for miles and miles. He seemed to be really frustrated and disappointed.  I tried to share my feelings, but he wasn’t interested.  And so here we are, two tourists who have traveled thousands of miles to be here, both with Great Expectations, both with different perceptions of the same reality.  Isn’t it interesting how we can frame our perceptions and how it can affect our satisfaction with life?  Harvey has said to me many times that you can’t change what life brings you, but you can change your perception of it, your attitude.  Here it is again with red neon lights!

Walking on The Wall was like being on a stairmaster, with some steps quite steep and a bit scary.  The Wall follows the natural contours of the mountains so the vistas naturally keep changing as we walked and as the fog was also shifting every few seconds, the distant sections of the wall were playing peek-a-boo going in and out of visibility.  We listened to others speaking languages that we could recognize from Russia, Norway, France, Spain, China and Holland.   When we got to the end of the restored section, there was a woman selling drinks and souvenirs.   We learned she carries the stuff up there every day.  She had a giant umbrella and the rain had begun to pore down, so we ducked under and purchased a drink.  We didn’t realize that we should have negotiated and not accepted the asking price, but we did get to wait out the heavy rain under her umbrella!    

It was at this point where there was a sign that the unrestored section was closed.  We simply continued on past the sign.  It seemed to us that this area had also been restored and it looked like we could walk on & on.  The Wall after all is 4,000 miles long!  In this section we met two Russian young women who were in China studying Mandarin.  They offered us chocolate covered cookies with marshmallows that we gladly accepted.  It would have been a good idea to bring along some snacks with us.   At some point we decided to head back.  We would be walking past the cable car to the chair lift on Tower 6 and it was at least 1.5 hours away.  We were heading for a late lunch and we didn’t want it to be a super late lunch.

At the base of the chairlift we made a right turn and walked a short distance to the Dream City of Stone (also known as the China Stone Museum).  This place has rocks and stones from all over China beautifully displayed.  For some unknown reason, I am drawn to stone and I found the displays in the garden and in the museum showcased the shapes, designs and textures beautifully.  It is an interesting counterpoint to the walk on The Wall.

Before getting into the car, I took a photo of a rain drenched but smiling Harvey.  Both of us felt like we had been standing in a shower all day from the sweat and rain.  But it was totally worth it!

The blue skies emerged just as we walked into lunch at the Xiao Long Pu Restaurant not far from The Wall.  Our guide had called to see if they could accommodate us as we were so late.  We felt like we earned the wheat flour soup, excellent mushrooms, chicken & chestnuts and beef with onions.  We’ve had some fascinating conversations with our guide, Gerry.  I don’t remember everything, but what stands out from today’s lunch is that men are encouraged to marry in their 40’s after they have bought a home and car, and to choose a girl in her 20’s.  I love to hear about cultural expectations.

As we drove back to Beijing, our cell phone rang and it was Eva Wang from China Highlights who had helped me to coordinate our trip.  She sounded like a sweetie; she was just welcoming us to China and checking that everything was okay.  It was reassuring to know that we could contact her at anytime if we needed assistance.

We were getting back to Beijing close to 5:00 PM and Gerry mentioned that there was time to go to the Acrobatics show if we wanted.  He called ahead to get seats and we were in our seats about 3 minutes after the show started.  We had made the priority The Wall today and we were there as much as we wanted.  What a bonus that we had time to fit this show in and a guide to make it happen. I liked going with the flow of the day and the spontaneity of going to the show.  I was fascinated how the performers could move their bodies.  Can our bodies really do this?

We were so tired and not really hungry by the time we were dropped off at our hotel.   We walked around the corner from our hotel to a mini-mart and bought some bananas, a peach, apricot and some unknown fruit and had a picnic in our room.  We put our heads on the pillow and we were out for the night.


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