Being a Hero on the Great Wall

We went to the Great Wall yesterday.  One of those “OMG, look where I am” moments.  I was having camera issues, so photos aren’t that great, but you’ll get the gist.  And, of course, there are more sections to be seen, so I’ll definitely be going back!

I didn’t walk out that far. The steps are steep and narrow, and (as you know!) I am teetery on my legs at the best of times, so I just went out far enough to get some shots and be able to say “I stood on the wall,” since Chairman Man says “No one can be a hero who has not stood on the wall.”

Most of the adventure lay in the trip up to the wall.  Apparently it takes a couple hours to walk up there (and, again, it’s REALLY steep), so they have a chair lift. It was probably a 5 minute ride up, over deep gorges.  And, of course, I’m terrified of heights.  It was mostly an exercise in quashing my terror, interspersed with the occasional “Oh, wow” as you caught a glimpse of the vista.

Coming down offered two options:  The chairlift, or a luge-like journey down a metal chute.  That would actually have been fun, but the line was an hour long, at least; so, clad in my new Hero status, I braved the chairlift again.  Good decision.  Some of the other teachers stood in line, and just as they got to the front, it started raining.  Officials closed the luge, (apparently the brakes don’t work when wet), and made everyone turn around. So they were at the end of the line again for the chairlift!

Like tourist traps everywhere, you have to run a gantlet of people hawking their wares with “Hey! I recognize you”   “Buy my t-shirt” and offering bargain prices at 100 times their actual worth.  I compared notes with the other teachers who had been in Egypt, and we agreed the Chinese version weren’t nearly as aggressive and annoying as the hawkers at, say, Hatshepsut’s temple in Luxor.  Nevertheless, I learned to say: “Bu yao!  Wo mei yo chen.”  (I don’t want any.  I don’t have any money.”)  The first time I said it, the guy started laughing, and kind of waved me on.  On returning down the hill he called out to me:  “I remember you!  You don’t have any money!”   Who said the Chinese don’t have a sense of humor?!

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