Tuesday, January 29, 2008

truly great wall

We had decided to save the significant sights of China for the latter part of trip, thinking it would be best to be over jet lag and able to truly enjoy them. So, it was with great anticipation when Monday arrived, the day we were finally going to see the Great Wall!

By now we were not only more acclimated to the time zone, but the weather. We each put on multiple layers(I had five) and carried extra hats and other necessities. Nothing was going to slow us down.

Well, except maybe the long bus ride. Kevin (our tour guide in Shanghai) put us in touch with a Nicole, a tour guide in Beijing who arranged for a minibus to drive us to the Badaling section of the wall. Usually, she told us, she didn't recommend that section as it is completely overrun by tourists. But since we were here in January, that wouldn't be a problem.

And she was quite right. Coming in the cold had given us an unexpected bonus. There was only a smattering of tour buses and the largest crowd of people were the performers at the entrance welcoming us in (while shivering).

It was almost as if we had the Great Wall all to ourselves. It was actually quite magical. The snow was falling lightly and the only footprints on the ground were our own.

However, climbing the Great Wall in the snow was a bit tricky. Many areas were quite steep and icy, we were constantly slipping and sliding. The whole way up I was wishing I had cleats on the soles of my boots.

And somehow, maybe because I am the least athletic of the group, I was always the last one in the back--the one whom everyone was waiting for. I think they felt obligated to shout encouraging words to me from time to time. But, I'm going to blame my slowness on my photo-taking dedication. Yeah.

So when we all finally made it to our desired location top, the emotions were quite strong, ranging from: victorious amusement,joyful jubilation,and quiet elation.
I think it was a thrill none of us will ever forget,

especially for me and Alvina. A long time ago we had made a list of things we wanted to do before we died, and both of us had put "climb the Great Wall of China." And now we had.
Of course, when I put "climb the Great Wall" on my list, I never really thought about climbing down. Ah, a new adventure!

But, one that I will always remember.


Amy said...

Hi Grace! Yipee! You made it! Good choice going in the winter. I went when it was blistering hot~ I think I'd have preferred the snow. It's beautiful!

Libby Koponen said...

Yes, really magical, and I love the way you describe it and the smiling faces. It's also fascinating to read this experience described from your POV & Alvina's!

I also went when it was hot, and I think the snow falling and emptiness give it a fairy tale quality: legendary is a better word.

Thank you so much for posting so generously! I love all of it: the food, the Beijing boyfriends, the images of the 4 of you on the train. THANKS.

Cloudscome said...

You are really brave to make that climb in the snow!!! The pictures are really beautiful so you are rewarded.

I just heard on NPR about some of the preparations Beijing is making for the Olympics. They are planning to close a lot of factories to clean up the air for the weeks surrounding the big event. The impact will be huge in so many ways. Your being on the wall without crowds of people brings to mind how complex these tourist things really are.

Dim Sum, Bagels, and Crawfish said...

What a unique view of the Great Wall....beautiful with all of the snow! We are huge fans of your work. Congratulations on your newest books. We can't wait to read them. Hope you have a good New Year and enjoy the rest of your trip!