The 6.15 start in Beijing was postponed until 7am, and then 8.15, and we finally left at 9.45, which cut into our time at the Wall considerably. After about 2 hours of driving with a highly enthusiastic tour guide endeavouring to keep us awake with her faulty microphone, we stopped for a "Pestroom"(Typo Sign number 23!) and some convenience food. Among my daring purchases were a packet of sausages (chicken?) a packet of what looked like soap cakes from men's urinals and incidentally tasted much as I'd imagine those things to taste like, and a pot of jelly which, on closer inspection, had a picture of a turtle shell on it. I haven't eaten in yet.
At 11.55 we arrived at the wall, and had to be back by 1.30pm. Eric and I set off at a quick pace, leading the "pack". We were amongst Alex, the male ballroom dancer, and Clayton the a capella singer, whose butt you can just see in this picture. The steps were different heights in the "new"grey brick section, but once we got up high, the "old" wall stones were older, fallen away in places and brown. It was a leg workout fuh shaw!
I did well, (if I do say so myself) and climbed pretty sharpish up to where there was a raised wall one side, and a sheer drop the other. This walkway here is as high as I climbed, and from here on the wall had fallen into disrepair, with only steps up. I walked slowly down, meeting up with colleagues on the way and leaving Eric and the boys to do, well, their boy I-can-climb-as-high-as-you-can thing and continue to a vantage point with a flag in it.
I bought a shirt for RMB25, as I thought the woman deserved it, I had seen her friend in the picture carting all her wares on her back. There were no cable cars or buses here. Imagine, she has soft drinks in that cooler on her back, and has walked at least 20mins up.
We took it slow going back down the bigger steps, admiring the amazing landscape and the rest of the wall, stretching along the brow of the hills as far as we could see. I also love the Chinese etched graffiti, for all I know it could say "Dennis woz here '98" in Mandarin cursive script, but it's easy on the eye!
The journey back was a restful one, we'd tired ourselves out, but I had one of those "Wow, that was the GREAT WALL OF CHINA!" moments that make this job worthwhile. I even bought edible food on the way back to replenish my strength after all that climbing!