Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Awesome I-can't-believe-i'm-here Day

Awesome day!

First item on the agenda was a brief stop at the Olympic Village. The “Bird’s Nest” was the site of the fabulous opening and closing ceremonies. And the plaza seems endless.

Second stop was a jade factory and sales facility. Gorgeous stuff, but even the things on the clearance table were out of our budget. Actually, what drew me most was the silk embroidered paintings that cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. Didn’t buy.

Lisa, the woman who showed us around, talked a lot about feng shui, the Chinese concept of luck, especially in regard to the money dragon (of which they had a lot of examples) that people place facing the door to draw money in. The dragon has no anus, so nothing comes out. (Sounded like a greedy capitalist to me, but she said it with a positive tone.) John had talked about the flag with the star (five-points representing control of water, fire, earth, air and metal located in the most propitious NW corner, the smaller stars representing the Chinese people) and the ring road being 98.5 km long rather than 99 km which would have been a number connected with the emperor and indicating “long”. They both talked about these things as if they are current thinking, not historic ideas. When I asked Lisa, “So do modern Chinese actually believe these things?” her face grew very still as if daring me to challenge her.


“I would have thought that after so many years of Communism…”

“But Chinese culture is much older.” So it seems that, like in Africa, the Chinese are not really materialists.

Third stop. The DingLing Tomb of a Ming Dynasty emperor. This tomb has an underground palace discovered in 1958 beneath the funerary temples. Cool and damp smelling. No elevator. Mom could not have done it.

Steve without guide John
I was glad our guide suggested inverting the itinerary since our last stop would have made all of these fascinating places anti-climactic. Lunch was Subway, and there in the background at the top of the mountain is our goal—the Great Wall.

We had planned to walk, but Steve took one look and decided to take the cable car. I wasn’t anxious to give up the challenge, so we split up. Part way up the steps I was wondering if I had made a mistake. I never saw anyone headed my direction. The only people I saw on top anywhere near my age had taken the cable car, looked around and went back down, so I felt like a real Korea granny.

There were landings every thirty steps or so. I gave myself permission to stop at every single one. About half way up I came to a refreshment stand and this little pavilion.

A bit farther up, I could see large stones through the trees. “That’s the Great Wall of China,” I told myself. Talk about motivation! Eventually, the path came along the outside and reached Gatehouse 10. It took about half and hour.

Steve and I did meet up!

He had walked down from gatehouse 15. No way did he want to turn around and walk back up! So he gave me his return ticket and took my stairway back down. The stairway I had climbed was all even, modern steps in excellent condition. The wall route was part steps, part ramp, and some of those steps were twice normal height. I was glad to be going up, not down. 

The guardhouses were cool and breezy. People sat in windows or just in the shadow and felt the air move. There were also great photo points.

In one I found a mother resting with a toddler. The toddler had a tablet that was playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” so I sang along. The mother thought that was a great idea and began singing too—in a completely different key.

The wall follows the ridgeline. Beyond Gatehouse 15 it turns down hill again. The mountains ahead made me want to just keep walking.

My desire to go down the cable car and end this awesome experience was zero. If I hadn’t known Steve was waiting for me at the bottom, I would have stayed. Walking the Great Wall of China is one of the great experiences of a lifetime. Would I ever have this chance again? And on such a gloriously beautiful day? But I love my husband. (And thanked him for the ticket!)

Even views from the cable car were memorable.

By the time we got to the car, our skin was gritty with salt from sweat. It took a long shower back at the hotel to stop the flavor of salt in the water running off my face.

If I were making recommendations, I would suggest spending the night closer to the wall. The reason John gave for inverting the itinerary was to avoid the morning crowds. In fact, there were lots of tour buses when we arrived, all of which were gone by the time we came down, and although we saw people on the way, it was certainly not crowded like the Forbidden City. We first thought morning would be better to avoid the heat, but it was going to take two hours to get there, already putting us in midday heat. If you stayed closer, you could go up in the morning before the crowds (maybe even catch the sunrise), and go up again in the cool of evening after the crowds leave. If you took the cable car one of those times, you could spend your energy on the wall instead of climbing up to it, and go both directions. Just some thoughts.

Oh, yes. 97 flights of stairs today.


  1. I'm so enjoying your blogs, both words and marvelous photos. Brings back so many memories, first time I saw and went on only part of the wall was in 1996 when it was covered in snow and ice during the cold spring and I had sprained an ankle shortly before that stop. Some of the students in the group, sat down and slid down the icy slopes. I was most recently there in 2011, my most recent time in China when I hiked a long way along with my Ohio Janet friend. Am eager to share more as I read more of your blogs and view the photos

  2. Kay, I'm thinking I have seen hikes where you can spend days on the wall with someone transporting your luggage between overnights. Do you know anything about that?