My work week is finally over! Now i have the opportunity for more sight-seeing!
Saturday morning, one of my hosts from work took me to the Great Wall of China and the Ming Tombs. We started early – 7 am – because it was Saturday and the busiest day at the Wall. It took 90 minutes to drive there, so we set out at the base at 8:30 am. It was already pretty crowded, as you’ll see in the various pictures.
The idea was to walk from the base all the way up to the highest point, and then back down. This was quite a hike, and a difficult one, as it was mostly uphill. There were options to take a little train to the halfway point, or a cable car to the top, but i aspired to be “great” so i wanted to walk.
In the U.S., this wall would never be allowed to have people walking on it. It was not safe. Even where it was flat, the ground was very uneven, as hundreds of thousands of feet have tread upon it and made the stones uneven. There were very steep sections that had no steps, just a steep wall of concrete that you had to crawl up, most people requiring the handrail to do so. Often there were steps, but they were steep and uneven in many places, with some steps a few inches high, while others were two feet high. The going was rough, and it was crowded. Any person who stumbled would be screwed.
We stopped quite a few times to “have a rest” as my host likes to say it. It was hot that day – the high of the day would be near 100 and the temperature was climbing fast. The wind up there was wonderful, though, a cool breeze coming from the North. When we did “have a rest”, we found a break in the wall and just stood there and let the strong breeze wash over us. Finally we made it to the top. It has taken us about 75 minutes to get there. It was crowded, but beautiful. You can see the Wall snaking behind me forever.
The way down was treacherous, perhaps even more so because the threat of tumbling was higher since we were propelling ourselves downward. And the hordes of people on the Wall didn’t help – there were plenty of people who could bump into you and throw you off balance.
There were no stumbles or falls or anything that i saw. However, the hordes of people caused another dangerous situation to occur. The Wall had large, enclosed stone towers every so often. There would be a little tunnel through the stone. At one of the stone towers, about halfway down, we hit a bottleneck. We were still outside the tower when traffic stopped completely. More people queued up behind us, and people started to press close. The line slowly moved forward, and you had to take tiny baby steps to keep up. We made it into the tower, and then movement stopped again. Completely. People were bunched all around. I could not move. Seriously. I did manage to raise my hand up to take this picture.
This was the only passage through the tower. Notice that there doesn’t seem to be anyone coming towards us. People began pushing a bit, and that was scary too, because there was nothing you could do about it. Someone was yelling “Don’t push! There are kids!” It struck me that there was a nonzero chance of serious injury or death if people got out of control.
Luckily the line started to move again. I was clinging desparately to the shoulder of my host, trying not to get separated from him. We emerged into the sun again, and were immediately faced with extremely steep stairs. Somehow that mob of people climbed down with no injuries.
After all that excitement, the Ming Tombs was relatively boring. It was basically a big garden/park, and then at the back you climbed down 10 flights underground to walk through an underground palace that had been built for one of the emperors of China. I have no idea how they managed this, architecturally, way back when.
An exciting (a little too exciting), if exhausting, day in China.