Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It Was Not Without Danger

One of the more beautiful Great Wall hikes deserved a repeat engagement as we made our triumphant return to Shanhaiguan (the city on the Bohai Sea where the Great Wall meets the ocean).

As we entered through the da men, I looked up...way, way up. I recalled our previous experience here...After climbing the tourist section of the Great Wall at Jiao Shan, we reached a blockade. But as we were about to turn back, we were encouraged by a warm-hearted German, Andeas, and his tour guide, to continue past the barrier to the crumbling wall (always our favorite type of Great Wall). With the promise of unforgettable views, we followed.

An so, as we made our way through the tourist part of Jiao Shan the other day, we faced those blocks again. This time, on our own, we climbed past.

Echoing Andreas' sentiment last time..."It was not without danger." Once you venture past the tourist section (which has been restored for the public), the terrain becomes quite dicey. Getting around the barriers themselves, of which there are two, first requires a climb over part of the wall that consists of a few two foot wide steps, with a twenty-foot drop beside them, and later a rod-iron fence with barbed wire at the top, which you must shimmy around...over crumbly rocks, I might add.

Now, last March, when we first came to Shanhaiguan, I was in much better shape. Seven months of living in Beijing at that point and the backing of five miles of walking per day prepared me well for this undertaking. Yet after a year back in the States, much less exercise, all those carbs, and only two weeks of Beijing walking under my belt, I was unsure if I would be up for the climb.

Step by step, rock by rock, it was as tough, but as beautiful as I remembered. There were certainly a few struggles, especially around the blockades and up a couple of fairly steep rock faces, but I am pleased to say that this journey was a success.

As I told Julie in an inspired moment when we reached the summit, you don't get to see stuff like this unless you make the effort...pushing past your fears and past your mental and physical limits.



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