susys running away to sea

"The rigors (sic) of an expeditionary lifestyle"

Friday, September 26, 2008

Still on the coach trying to get to the GW ..

(after breakfast)

We pass massive electricity pylons and a massive reservoir, which serves Beijing. Aesthetics have a low priority at the moment, but the main roads and motorways are excellent - I guess the Olympics have given them a big boost.

Small farms - mainly maize and fruit trees - are hacked out of the lumpy landscape.

And here we are in the car park for the GW, and only a short time after a pretty large breakfast (energy for the Wall), we're presented with lunch of a massive plate of noodles. Actually, they're fairly grim, and no-one can eat much. The Chinese family on the table behind me are tucking into a feast including a whole large fish, which I eye greedily.. We got given the menu with English on it, which included fried nice ...

Then on to the communal loos, with French footprints and a stable door to the outside world, so you can wave to your audience.

And now for the fun bit - the Wall itself. It is quite impossible to describe, and the photo I sent from there gives you much more of an idea. It's been built up and over the highest, most craggiest mountains around - it's the product of paranoia and megalomania (the first Emperor) to keep out the Mongol hordes. The amount of work done by the 'common people' (phrase used by Kent, so that's alright then) and the effort and undoubted huge numbers of deaths can barely be imagined.

Now I know my limits, and I took the cute little cable car to Tower 8. The cars are tiny, with little roofs, open to the air. Very peaceful - all I heard were the crickets zing-zinging, and the creak of the cars as they lurched over the supports. And all the way up the mountain someone has planted little fir trees in individual circular stone terraces.

Once I reach the top cable car station, I have to get on this near-vertical funicular railway - wooo - and the view outward is endless mountains. I'm used to the flat lands of East Anglia, or rounded glaciated hills. This is all sharp, biting the sky.

Then it's a steep zigzag walk up very rocky very uneven steps to Tower 8 itself, during which time Tina and I are adopted by a couple of local women, who obligingly fan under my hair, when I hesitate even slightly. We cannot shake them off... and obviously they're not doing it for the good of my health.

So - views and photos out of Tower 8 over what was once Mongolia to the north, but nowadays belongs to China. It's so mountainous, I can't imagine anyone thinking attacking here would be a good idea - far too much like hard work. Then Tina and I start descending.

Steps are rough, uneven and made for small Chinese feet. With our big western plates of meat, we're going slowly, grabbed by our new best friends from time to time. And what we never even thought about - the wind, blustery, gusting, and very scary .. So after a while, like two elderly infirm old ladies, we're helped down endless endless steps by now grateful for the help we formerly spurned. Neither of us want photos taken of us like this ...

Eventually we get to Tower 2, where we can leave to amble down to the car park. Although it was a bit unnerving, I wouldn't have missed it. Apparently, there is a bit of wall nearer Beijing, but it's more crowded, so I'm glad we came here.

I asked my guide about the lack of safety walls each side of the steps and slopes and she said the Japanese knocked them down. There's little love lost between the Chinese and the Japanese, so I was surprised to see a Japanese restaurant in Beijing.

At Tower 2 came the hard sell. I wanted to give my guide something for her undoubted help, but she looked rather cross and wanted to sell me a souvenir. I settled for a packet of chopstick in brocade covers for about 10 pounds sterling, paid in yuan, but I refused her other offerings. This is a short version of the bargaining .. she'd told me if I paid her, and didn't buy something she wouldn't be allowed to work the following day. Hm somehow I didn't quite believe her. But she had helped me an awful lot, and knocked a biting millipede out of my way when I sat on a wall (not THE wall).

The loos at Tower 2 were portapottis - with a lo-ong green plastic liner containing all the contents .. mm nice job emptying that.

Then I went down on the zip wire across the river - fantastic!! Long and slow - so good, if I could have walked up the road again, I'd have done it all over again! Crossed the river in a little yellow boat with some noisy Americans, then met up with Tina again in the car park.

So my walk along the Great Wall was fairly inglorious, but I had a go at all the methods of transport up and down, and I did walk for part of the way ..


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