It was about 3 hours away from Beijing. We picked up people from a few other hotels and hostels and were on our way.
The tour bus took us to the bottom of the Great Wall. There was a horse in a field, which I mistakenly thought was a bear. Then I thought, "Oh it's just a bundle of hay." And then it moved and I realized it was a horse.
The tour guide showed us this map of the 18 towers, gave us a bit of history, told us how many steps there were to the tallest tower, then started texting.
We all stood around while she was texting.
She looked up and said, "What are you all waiting for??" And we said, "For you to lead us to the towers!" She led us to the stop of the steps below the first tower and then we never saw her again.
Well, until lunch at least. I suspect she turned around at the first tower.
There were ladies that were following the tour group and at the end of the tour forced everyone to buy souvenirs. They kind of spoke English. In any other circumstance, I would have been worried about pick pocketing, but they were actually rather helpful, even though I wanted them to go away. But more on that later.
The Great Wall was incredible. Our tour group of 19 was the only group there, which means that a lot of my pictures and experiences on the wall were just me and Anna and whoever we were walking around with. When you buy postcards of the wall, there are a ton of people on the wall, or at least a few, yet I was able to take a ton of pictures with nobody in them (since I was lingering behind everyone to take pictures).
I saw 3 other people our entire time on the wall at the first tower. They were heading towards the exit and said "The Great Wall is great!" and then that was it. We had the wall to ourselves. It was wonderful.
That means the wall was a bit treacherous at times.
We didn't rush.
One of them was behind me as I was tipping over and trying not to smash my camera into the stairs and she literally pushed me up the stairs by the buttocks. And Anna took pictures. How embarrassing. But they're worth sharing...
I put my camera in my backpack for a bit.
Sometimes the stairs were more treacherous than a thin pathway high above the ground without handrails, which is un-fun when you're slightly afraid of heights. But falling down the stairs seemed worse.
I can tell you that I was extremely sore for 2 days afterwards and kind of sore for another 2-3 days. The Great Wall is not for wimps.
About halfway up these stairs I said, "Why are these stairs so large? People were short!"
About 2 minutes later another 1/4 of the way up, we ran into Margaux and a couple of the German men and she was yelling, "Why are these stairs so large!? Chinese people are short!" She climbed Mt. Everest to the first base camp and was complaining about the difficult hike, so I felt a bit better about being exhausted.
We weren't actually worried, because there were garbage cans along the path. It's all in the adventure.
Since we followed her, we felt obligated to buy something. I bought some post cards. Wade bought a book. Anna didn't have much money with her and they kept saying, "But your friend bought something!" and she kept saying, "Well my friend is rich!" I said, "Stop saying that! They're going to make me buy something else!"
We then had lunch at a restaurant nearby.
We then drove back to Beijing and went to the night market filled with bugs and weird animals being sold as food. But that's the next blog post.