Thursday, March 05, 2009

How Do You Get To The Wild Wall?

One of the challenges of the Great Wall is that it is usually experienced in a pre-packaged, sanitized form. Everything about the wall is set up to funnel visitors to a few small sections that have been restored and commercialized for throngs of visitors looking to make a quick trip, snap some photos, and then move on.

There is the high-speed train from Beijing North that connects the city with Badaling, the granddaddy of Great Wall sites. There are the long-distance buses that ferry folks out to Mutianyu, Simatai, and other such locations. All of these destinations are truly spectacular, and we have certainly enjoyed them to the utmost.

But how do we break out from the barriers, and get out to remote sections of the wall, where we can experience past and present more on our own terms? As it turns out, all we needed was to be in the right place at the right time.

As Desi and Z have already posted about, one day we were hiking up a rebuilt section of the wall at Jiao Shan, just outside of Shanhaiguan. It was an incredible climb, with really vertical sections. But, eventually, we ran into the inevitable edge of the restoration, and had a decision to make.

Should we go on, and at last walk along the crumbling wall? Or should we veer off, and stick to a well-constructed side path that would keep us on the proverbial straight and narrow?

Desi and I looked at each other, and pretty quickly decided to err on the side of caution. We began to follow the prescribed pathway.

This was when we scored our really fortunate break.

We had no sooner set out down the path than we heard some voices from behind calling us back. It was a group of young Chinese people, plus an older foreigner. It turns out the foreigner was an engineer from a German railroad company who was in Shanhaiguan on business. One of his Chinese companions was serving as his interpreter during his trip. Together, this unlikely duo and the rest of their gang was just about to embark on a "wild wall" adventure. Did we want to go along with them? It is exciting, a little dangerous, and we know the way, they informed us.

Did we want to go along with them? Now there's a question we didn't hesitate to answer!

And so off we went, following the remnants of the wall higher and higher up into the mountains, totally taken by the scenery, not to mention the dirt and rocks beneath our feet. Finally! It was just us, the wall...and a few of our newest friends, without whom none of the day's memories could possibly have been made.

~Steve

2 Comments:

At 10:29 PM, Blogger Barbra said...

Hi Guys!
Just catching up on your recent "wall" events. Too fun!

Steve, I just read your Transparency piece and find it very interesting. My hope is that the that Obama Administration is trying to be more open and transparent than any of those in the past. Although I fear that there is much work to be done, I am hopeful that this administration is trying to involve the general public more than ever before. But, my guestimate is that 80% of the people get all of their political info via CNN and the like. And we all know how limited the mainstream media can be.
Anyway, without going on and on....I was curious as to the economic vibe there in China. Has the global econmic downturn effected the locals there as much as some of the European countries? Many people here feel that we haven't hit the bottom yet. I'm just glad that we, Dave & I, personally, have been part of the fiscally responsible set. (For the most part)
Anyway, hope this isn't too wordy. LOL!
Desi you look great. Keep up the good work. The struggle is lifelong. I lost 25 lbs for my sister-in-law's wedding in Nov. I fear the brownie kick I've been on recently, is not a good thing. UGH!
Best wishes and stay safe.
Barb AKA Barbie :)

 
At 8:52 PM, Blogger The Balla Family said...

Hi Barb! I too have high hopes for the Obama administration when it comes to transparency and participation, and there have been some early encouraging signs. That said, I think these kinds of aspects of the government-citizen relationship often end up being more complicated than we expect.

If we take the Bush administration, there were areas where they actually broke new ground in making available online information about who White House officials were meeting with when making policy decisions. These kinds of advances were overshadowed, perhaps understandably, in the mainstream media by the energy group and, of course, terrorism related issues.

The economic impacts here in China are pervasive. Many migrant workers have left the coastal boom towns. Job fairs for college graduates are ridiculously mobbed. But, and here's a big difference, China's economy is still expected to grow this year.

Steve

From Desi..."Thanks for the vote of confidence on my weight loss! While my road is long, I've made some strides. It's easy here, though, because I can walk several miles a day without blinking an eye. There is so much to see. It doesn't feel like exercise."

 

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