Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Great Wall...or where I managed to stay on my feet

Day 2 in Beijing, we took a tour to the Great Wall. There were a couple tour options we could book through our hostel. We picked the tour that went to the part of the Great Wall that was not reconstructed.

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.

The wall was definitely old and not rebuilt, apart from a little bit at the beginning.

That means the wall was a bit treacherous at times.

Part of the wall that was reconstructed.

The Great Wall of China is huge, so obviously we just went to one section of the wall. There were 18 towers that we could visit in the time we had there, 21 if we rushed.

We didn't rush.

Notice there are no people. So cool.

Awkward hand

The views were just incredible. It was so interesting to think of the people would climb the wall in the past and that it separated China from Mongolia, though now it's just separating Chinese provinces.

As we walked along the wall, it began getting steeper and steeper and the stairs continued to get more broken and broken.

Please don't climb the wall.

There were a lot of cool people on the tour. Alexander, Patrick and Chris from Germany, a man from France, Margaux from Belgium, Wade from Australia. We walked around with them sometimes and other times were separated.
At one point, the stairs got really steep. I almost fell (but did not, surprisingly) but was trying to protect my camera because it's expensive, which made me unstable. This is where the ladies following us around came in.

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.

This picture really shows how steep the stairs and pathways were, even though it kind of doesn't still. It's really difficult to capture.

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.
The sky was so clear and it wasn't smoggy! The weather was just perfect.

The pathway getting worse...

This was also steeper than it looked.

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.

For this part, each stair was the size of about 2 stairs.

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.

Anna trying her best at planking.

Sometimes one side of the path looked like this...aka collapsed.

Eventually I took off my coat because I was hot, even though it was chilly. One of the German men said, "It's freezing and you're practically hiking in your bikini!"

I bought my running shoes in Korea...they are a slightly embarrassing and bright pink and orange, but they were the cheapest of the more comfortable shoes. Korean running shoes are extremely expensive.

Treacherous pathways again.
Giant stairs...

Anna, Wade, Alexander and I followed a souvenir lady down the short cut along the bottom of the Great Wall, because we were running out of the time and it had taken a couple hours to get to the point we were at. We joked that we were going to get kidnapped and referred to it as the murder trail.

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.
 Anna got an excessive amount of cucumbers.

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.

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