Toboggans and nudity on the Great Wall

I must have looked incredibly pathetic this morning, limping up to the entrance of the Great Wall.
It was a kebab stick that left me walking in a similar fashion to a three-legged dog with a twitch. The bamboo stick jumped into my flip flop a few nights after a raucous night out. It pierced straight into my toe with unexpected venom, bruising and swelling my foot. Of course, this particular injury would coincide with a walk on one of the more gruelling seven wonders of the world. I also have a nasty scratch from where the Slovakian girl pulled me onto the table we were dancing on with a little too much enthusiasm. A full catalogue of my recent injuries would take far too long, but let’s say I am rocked up this morning feeling a tad battered.
Despite the injuries I’d rummaged around for some self-discipline, which had not seen the sun in about eight weeks, and got to bed before midnight. The English lads, who I’d just managed to resist joining for a night of festivities, rolled in at 5.15am (their fourth night in a row!! and they had to be at the airport at 6) and surprised me with some football songs, a spot of comedy and an icecream one owed me from a bet. So, I was mildly tired, but only 20 minutes late for breakfast. Luckily, I had a cute new pink hat to make me smile.
Now, I’d only been relatively unenthusiastic about visiting the Great Wall. To me, the joy of traveling lies in the people you meet, rather than the things you see, but my determined mother insisted I see such a splendid sight.
Thank you, Mum!
The trip started with the inevitable choice between a cable car and a slog up a hill. For me, that choice is the same as choosing to dine-in or take-away. I avoid cable cars on principle, prefering to pant my way up steep hills, thinking nasty thoughts of the rich folk on the machines above me, but with a sense of virtue that would make the Pope humble.
Today, with my super injuries and a new pair of tight shoes, it was the perfect opportunity to cast aside my values and jump on the ski lift. It’s a nice feeling, really, to have all that initial walking removed from the to-do list.
We had three hours to saunter along the wall, imagining ourselves as medievil oriental soldiers. It was a perfect, blue-sky day. A slight breeze kept the Chinese summer at bay, too.
I strode up the first side, pushing through the pain in my shoe, admiring the view all around. The surrounding hills are typical of China with their stunning colours and contours. The wall itself, of course, has a partciular charm that comes with age and beauty. It’s a pretty wall, really, although I sternly reminded myself that it was a fort, not an ornament.
At the top of the first side I decided it was time to make some new friends. I combined that task with a ritual I began in South America.
For the record, asking the nice Canadian guy to take a photo of you in the nude will help you to turn an aquaintance into a pal. Tick. Tick.
With my new mates, I strolled along the old, unrestored section of the wall for a while, blatantly ignoring the ‘No Admittance’ sign and generally being a bad tourist. But, everyone else was doing it, so it must be ok, right! Without the modern touch-ups the old wall is crumbling and deteoriated in places, although it’s even more charming to imagine the place has been less touched since it was constructed so many centuries ago. It had an air of authenticity that is often removed from Chinese architecture.
I loved sitting, blissfully and gazing out at the surrounding mountains, watching the decrepit wall stretch along the ridges that skim the horizon. The patch of wall we strolled along was only about 3.5 kilometres long, but seeing the beast strecth along the hills gave an impression that it could actually be 6000 kilometres long. Actually, that’s still a little beyond my comprehension, but I’ll take the history books at their word.
The ambience in these ancient places always strikes a human chord for me. I cannot help but imagine the poeple who built the wall in such extreme locations. It is bloody steep! Also, I couldn’t help but picture myself as a soldier, stationed on the gleaming old forts, looking out for Genghis Khan and his muscly men. Of course, I could also picture the Mongols storming up the sides and capturing the wall.
It was a superb sensation to be in-situ while contemplating the finer points of such dramatic historical events. It was also cool to imagine things that happen today, such as the popular matchmaking shows set on the wall or the locals who insist on trudging up the pitched stairs in their wedding garb. Fools, I thought; they’d get sweat everywhere!
The two Australian and two Canadians guys and I indulged in a quick Tsingtao, just to get that real Chinese feeling happening.
Of course, the Chinese culture continued as we lined up to catch the toboggan back to the bus stop. Yes, that’s right, after you’ve finished strolling along one of the seven wonders on the world, you jump on a piece of plactic and slide down the metal amusemet course. Suddenly, I was seven again and at the Big Banana in Coffs Harbour. Oh, there is almost too mcuh fun to be had at that old wall. The Chinese man guarding the slide even shouted at me, waving his hand like a puppet master, to slow down. I felt like a kid again as the wind whipped my hair back.
It was an exhilirating end to the thrill of seeing the Great Wall. And, my aching feet, now with blisters from my brand-spanking Keds, had the last laugh as we cruised down to a banquet lunch.

One thought on “Toboggans and nudity on the Great Wall

  1. I am pleased you enjoyed it but you certainly have changed my idea of it now. Hopefully you enjoyed the experience and be careful of strangers in future please, They don’t know what is going to happen to them!
    Love Jan

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