I hit the wall today, and not in a bad way.
Yes, I climbed the great wall. Now, bear in mind that the Great Wall is over 3,000 miles, so my little piece was not exactly spectacular. It wasn't even as spectacular as Walt's or Mike & Char's. But it was better than some others in our group. And it was a personal best for me.
First of all, you have to know that getting there is almost more difficult than the climb itself. This was how we drove for about an hour.
But you finally begin to see the wall and it's as amazing as you expected.
...and you think "holy shit! what have I gotten myself in for!"
But you are thrilled to be there with Viking. Once again, that relationship proved extremely beneficial. Most people have to park in a parking lot a 40 minute walk from the wall. Viking knows which palms to grease and is able to park right AT the wall. I looked at these people...
...and realized that if I had to climb uphill forty minutes before I even SAW the wall, I would have turned back right then. But we parked as close as is humanly possible to park to the Badaling Gate. Yay, Viking! Yay, Jenna! Also the weather could not have been more perfect. It was in the 70s and there was a breeze, plus the sky was clear, which gave us perfect picture taking weather. Jenna says it was one of the most perfect days she can remember at the Great Wall this year. Thanks, God. Thanks, Dave, Paul, Gilbert and anybody else who helped make the day so perfect...and please note that NONE of the people in these pictures raptured today.
We assembled in front of the entrance and went in to meet at a little plaza. The steps up were so high again I had misgivings about this whole venture. We were there to take a group photo. Since I don't have a scanner here in China, I just took a picture of it.
Aren't we a fine looking bunch? Actually we are a fine looking bunch! This has become a really cohesive group and I like everybody. I have exchanged e-mail addresses with a few and handed out my internet card to a couple. We didn't feel like this about our Russia Group.
Then we were on our own for two hours to do what we wanted. You could go to the left, which was steeper, but less crowded or to the right, which was more crowded, but less steep ("less steep" being a relative term, of course!) Char and Mike opted for the less crowded, steeper way. I figured that crowds were the least of my problems and I was going to go for the less steep way (which was pretty damn steep anyway!). You walk up a path and then pass through a multi-chambered tower and then move on to the next section. I loved the towers because it sucked all the cool air from outside and blew it through the stone structure.
Walt took my picture as we emerged the other side of the first tower.
Walt said that he figured this was where I would turn back, but I was determined to reach the second tower, which is behind his head, to the left a little bit.
And I did!!
It was good I stopped here because the next section really started to get steep and, as it was, my knee was killing me before I reached the bottom....going down is definitely more difficult than going up!!! Walt made it to 30 steps from the top (two more towers worth), but encountered gridlock with nobody going up and nobody coming down, so he figured he'd better go down or risk missing the bus.
Those of us who made it back to the gift shop while the others were still climbing had our own little club going. Best purchase was made by Marie for her husband Jim. As "Cowboy Jim Woodruff," Jim played halfback for Ol' Miss from 1957-59 and caught a 43 yard touchdown pass in the 1960 Sugar Bowl. He then went pro with the Edmonton Eskimos. He and Marie are from Florida and the nicest people. Today Jim was wearing an ol' Miss shirt and Marie bought him the perfect hat to match it.
After we left the Great Wall, we drove some distance to a jade factory, where we saw craftsmen shaping jade objects
and had an overly long talk about jade (it was only overly long because the room was like an oven) and then were led through the very large shop area to where we were going to have lunch, another family style one (Char and I are starting to miss peanut butter and jelly sandwiches!). When we were finished, we went to visit the "happy room" and discovered we had our choice:
Needless to say, we chose the one on the right--we didn't even have to get toilet paper before entering the stall, because there was an honest-to-goodness roll right inside the stall!
As we walked back into the shop area, there was an absolute phalynx of salespeople waiting to follow us around and "assist" us. This one woman followed Char and me as we looked at way too expensive earrings and when we finally found a pair (each) that we liked, she pounced and made the sale--then asked if we wanted to check out some of their antiques! NO! Go AWAY!!!!
Next came "The Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs." This is the burial grounds for 13 of 15 Emperors of the Ming Dynasty, though their tombs are somewhere off in the hills. The "Sacred Way" is the path they carried the bodies on the way to their ultimate burial. It is a path lined with statues of guardian animals and officials.
The Spirit Way, or Sacred Way, starts with a huge stone memorial archway lying at the front of the area. Constructed in 1540, during the Ming Dynasty, this archway is one of the biggest stone archways in China today.
In the middle of it is a giant tortoise. Legend says that if you pet the turtle's backside, you will have good luck. Walt, as a loyal terrapin went for the front side instead.
The walk down The Sacred Way is about half a mile and I was keeping up, slowly (though not the last in the pack). Jenna wanted to talk to me about tomorrow, the day we tour Tiananmen Square at The Forbidden City. She has been talking all week long about how grueling it is. Tiananmen Square is the largest urban square in the world and can "easily" hold 1 million people. Problem is that there is just the square and no shade, and no place to sit, and no place to return to the bus. What's more, when we have finished Tiananmen Square we then walk directly to the Forbidden City, which is even larger. Jenna thinks they should hire a wheelchair and a pusher for me.
I am embarrassed to get into a wheel chair simply for being fat and unable to keep up. My alternative suggestion was to just skip this day of the trip, but Jenna said I'd come all this way and I really should see these important historical sites. So ultimately, I agreed to hire a wheelchair and a pusher and Walt and Char promise to make fun of me and take my picture while I'm being suitably embarrassed. HOWEVER, the way my feet feel right now I don't know that I could make it to the bus let alone a place that measures 1/2 mile x 1/3 mile!
On the way back to the hotel (another crawl in traffic) the driver took us to see the site of the 2008 Summer Olympics. We saw "the birdsnest"...
and the "bubble building" that hosted the water sports.
But this was the part I liked the best
We had dinner in the hotel and before we went in, Jenna sat at a table and autographed all the books on the Great Wall we had purchased (with our photo in it).
Now it's off to the shower before bed since there won't be much time in the morning.
(I just found out that my horoscope for today says "Today you seem to be attracted to anything that allows you to lose yourself in a crowd of people." Duhhh!)