Trekking Through China…The Great Wall

Our first glimpse of the Great Wall (photo taken from the bus)

Our first glimpse of The Great Wall of China appeared out of nowhere. The drive from our hotel in Beijing to the Badaling section of the Great Wall had been very long…passing mile after mile of sky-scraping apartment buildings stretching out in every direction as far as the eye could see…I remember remarking that every window looked into someone else’s window. I don’t remember seeing many trees or green grass for the first hour or so. Then finally the skyscrapers began to grudgingly give way to mountains.

Someone on the other side of the bus saw it first and the rest of us woke up and pinned our flash-less cameras against the bus windows. It was an even greater thrill than I had anticipated, seeing the Wall stretch out across the mountain like that! This was what I had come all this way to this strange country to see. The Great Wall.

It took us about another 45 minutes to reach the parking lot, disembark, navigate our way to the Tea House which would be our meeting place, then crush our way through the turnstile before our feet finally touched down on those ancient steps. It was a surreal moment for me. I kept wanting to stop to look around and soak it in and not lose a single second of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

On the Great Wall with hubby and my step-daughter

Hubby on the Great Wall

The Wall was much steeper than both of us had expected. Grateful for the months of back therapy that had prepared me for this day and this climb, I started out with the best of intention of climbing to the 3rd or 4th (maybe even farther) section of the wall. But it quickly became clear that I would have to push hard to even reach the 2nd! Both hubby and I huffed and puffed our way, me pulling myself up by grabbing the iron railing on the side, and crawling up, hand-over-hand. It was tough!!

With the young ones racing past us, pushing each other onward and upward, we finally had to succumb to the reality of our lack of adequate fitness and stop….just slightly beyond the 2nd tower. We were afraid that pushing ourselves any further would make us miss the experience of just “being” there.

So we stopped and wrapped ourselves in the splendor of the day, the glory of the moment, the incredible gift of feeling The Great Wall of China beneath our feet. I took dozens of pictures, from every angle, in every direction, not wanting to miss a single hilltop or leaf or glimpse of that Wall stretching far, far beyond where we stood. I couldn’t get enough. I couldn’t drink in enough. I couldn’t revel enough. It was glorious and majestic and wondrous and magical.

How to adequately capture the splendor!! We had amazingly – and apparently rare – clear weather the day we were at the Great Wall!

I don’t know how long we stood there. We didn’t want to move. We couldn’t climb higher (it was very steep just beyond where we had stopped), but we didn’t want to go back down yet either. So we just stayed put.

And then something really neat started happening. We became aware of many of the Chinese tourists stopping nearby and whispering to each other. We had been told that even in this modern day and age, many Chinese people had never seen Westerners before, and we wondered if perhaps my blond hair (very messy at that point) and pale skin were attracting attention…or maybe it was my silly Tilley hat. Anyway, I had been standing on this little raised viewing stand taking pictures, but I backed away when I became aware of several young people gathering around me, presumably wanting to take pictures of their own. I was surprised by their reaction – disappointment – I could hear what clearly sounded like moans of disappointment. So I shyly gestured to ask if they had wanted to take pictures of themselves WITH ME. Their huge happy smiles told me I had guessed right.

Everywhere we went, we were approached by Chinese people to have their pictures taken with us. This one was at The Great Wall.

Hubby with new friends on The Great Wall

So we ended up standing there, having our pictures taken with dozens – and dozens – a steady stream, in fact – of Chinese tourists. We must have ended up in hundreds of smart phones and photo albums by the end of our stay there on that Wall. It was such unexpected fun, unable to speak each other’s language but enjoying laughter and hugs and magical moments of hearts meeting hearts.

As our gathering time neared, we reluctantly – and gingerly – crept back down the Wall. It was actually harder climbing back down than it had been climbing up because it was so steep and treacherous even on a clear sunny day. We made it back down to the Tea House in time to enjoy a refreshing cup of hot Jasmine tea, a befitting end to what had been a morning we will never forget.

Sharon & hubby sipping tea in the Badaling Tea House at the Great Wall of China

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Copyright © Sharon C. Matthies, Meanderings (blog), 2012. All rights reserved.

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About Sharon

I love to write. I love to write myself into being right here right now. Writing releases something in me that needs wings, writing opens doors and windows that I often don't even realize are possible, writing helps me breathe out the dusty old, and to breathe in the new and possible. My hope is that maybe writing here in this blog will bring new light into these dusty old hallways and help me to clear out the thinking processes and mindsets that just don't work for me anymore. I seek to breathe new light and life into the nooks and crannies of a soul that has been feeling somewhat lost and frayed because of the last few patches of road I've had to travel.
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4 Responses to Trekking Through China…The Great Wall

  1. Wow! What an experience!! I can’t imagine the reality of the Wall instead of only seeing it in pictures. It’s like when I saw the Grand Canyon in person for the very first time; the reality is much more breathtaking than any picture could convey!

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    • Sharon says:

      Thanks, Ruth! I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon (well, I might have seen it as an infant but don’t remember it, lol). I think you’re right, there are some wonders that can’t adequately be conveyed in pictures alone. There is so much beauty to see in this world!

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  2. Angelika says:

    Sharon, my son had a similiar experience with the picture taking. Only it was at the castle, Neu Schwanstein in Bavaria. He was there with his wife and his two little blond boys. He said the Chinese tourists weren’t as interested in the castle as they were of my grandsons. They took dozens of photos of the children.:-)

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