Sunday, September 21, 2008

Riding on the Great Wall

No matter how far "out there" you think you are, there is always some sort of ever-present sign of civilization. We have spent two days visiting the Great Wall so far. And in both situations there have been different modes of very distinct transportation that will take you to the Great Wall and back down the mountain to the parking lot.

Our first trip to the Great Wall was to Badaling, one of the most famous tourist areas because the mountain it is on is the highest locally. This attracts many Chinese because they all want to reach the highest point, get their picture, and then go back down the wall. However, at this location, there is an alternative to climbing the wall. For 30 yuan, you can take a roller coaster-looking ride either up or down the mountain. It deposits you at the edge of the wall, so you only have a short distance to walk to the peak. We didn't choose this option for the way up, but it seemed irresistible for the way down (Z and I couldn't help it!). It turned out to be a relatively slow moving ride, but it was a lot of fun because it twisted around the mountain, giving beautiful views of the Great Wall and leaving you where all the tour buses are waiting.

Yesterday, we ventured to a new part of the wall called Simatai. Since we were on a bus that only gives you three hours to see the wall before you have to load up and head back to Beijing, we were on a little bit of a time constraint. When you enter the Simatai park area, there are two options...either take a hike all the way up a trail to the wall (mind you, this is a very tall mountain), or you can take a cable car to a closer point. With the time considered, we took the twenty minute cable car ride to the top. (It has a beautiful view, if you can get over the odd noises the cables make.)

When you reach the top of the cable car trip, you have to jump out of the car before it starts on the return journey. It only takes a few moments to realize that you are still a forty minute hike from the wall. But don't worry...the Chinese have another ride in store. The "incline" is a few benches that you can sit on that are connected to a cable. The cable pulls you up to the next point along the line. From here, your feet have to carry you the rest of the way to the wall.

Alpine slides, cable cars, and inclines...what will it be next?

~Julie

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