Sunday, March 12, 2006

Who needs Pink Floyd? B&B tackle the wall

On Friday Brian and I had the chance to do one of the things that we have been looking forward to ever since we started planning this trip.

(A quick sidebar: when we were in Siem Reap we were sitting in the lobby of a hotel waiting to meet some friends when we struck up a conversation with a family sitting in the next group of chairs. Turns out that Sean and Linda Dolan and their three cool daughters were living in Beijing for a two year stint and they very graciously invited us to drop by and visit when we hit the China portion of our trip. Fast forward a month and we checked back in with them to see if the invitation still stood. It did and that's how we found ourselves tucked into a comfy bed in an expat community on the outskirts of Beijing after our long days of travelling from Hanoi.)

Back to the main story. Linda had offered to drive us out to a more remote section of the wall (about 3 hours from downtown Beijing) that offered more challenging hiking and far fewer tourists and we eagerly and gratefully took her up on that. We ended up walking from Jinshanling to Simatai, a 10 km walk that usually takes about 4 hours because of the steepness and stoniness of the trail. Although it's harder to get to without your own transportation we highly, highly recommend this for anybody who wants to experience the Great Wall as it was.

We took way too many pictures and though I deleted a bunch, there are still a bunch on flickr. But that's okay. This was all about the visual experience. I don't want to spend too much more time on words but I will leave you with a couple of thoughts.

1) It was unbelievable in a country as crowded as China at a sight as famous as the Great Wall on a day as beautiful as ours was to have it all to ourselves. We didn't see another tourist for the first 3 hours of our walk and even the vendors made themselves pretty scarce. (This is in contrast to the most common place to see the wall, Badaling, which can be (no pun intended) wall to wall people)

2) Walking the wall is much harder than it looks, or at least much harder than we expected. Even though we'd seen the pictures all our lives of it winding sinuously up and down and around the hillsides, I don't think the implications of that had ever sunk in. The wall goes up and down along the top ridges/highest points of all the hills/mountains. That means that walking the wall is not so much getting up on the wall and going for a walk so much as climbing up and down and up and down a lot of steep slopes. (And add in the questionable footing on a lot of the unrestored parts...). With the blistering pace that Linda set (this was her third time here) it was a real challenge.

A HUGE thank you to the Dolans for their hospitality and to Linda and Mr. Gu for taking us out to the Wall.

So enough words. Go here and flip through the shots or put them on slideshow and enjoy.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It is so exciting to see you guys up there on the Wall! Becca, you look just great!

Wei Cao