There are no words to adequately convey the intense bombardment of my conflicting emotions at The Great Wall of China. It was an absolutely reverent sojourn, amazingly spiritual, and left me with a deep sense of awe.
After visiting the Olympic Park, we drove north from Beijing for over an hour. The first part was freeway/turnpike, and the second part was on windy, narrow roads. I was nearly carsick with tummy troubles, part from something I ate the night before, and part from sheer excitement.
Our guide took us to the Mutianyu Section of the wall. Mutianyu roughly translates to “where the land meets the sky.” It’s farther from Beijing than other access points, less visited, and there’s a cable car ride (included in our tour) up a portion of the steep terrain.
But to get to the cable car, we had to walk up and up and up on the paved roadway. I felt like a mountain goat, and I knew we had to come back down the same steep grade, so I was somewhat worried that my knees might give out. Up is easier for me than down, as I think it is for all people with knee problems, but I just kept climbing
At long last, we boarded the enclosed cable car. Number 26. It normally holds six people, and there were five of us, counting our guide. We noted the lettering on the glass that this was the very cable car President Clinton rode up the mountain in June, 1998, a full 17 years ago.
We got off the cable car and—you guessed it—there were a multitude of rock steps and/or steep ramps to climb! More up and up and up. The last eight steps were very deep, maybe 12 to 14 inches each, and I could have used a push from behind, as of course there are no handrails! But nevertheless, I got to the top, stepped through the archway, and…
…and there I was, standing on THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA. Naturally, I started to cry. And then I started snapping photos this way and that, like I had to hurry, cause it might all disappear when I woke up!
It was 91 degrees, my blouse was stuck to my back, perspiration flowed down my face and neck, and I was covered in goose bumps! I had made it, bad knees and all, to the top of the Great Wall of China… O.M.G!… I could cross another major goal off my bucket list!
The four of us walked to the right, to a nearby guardhouse, maybe 75 feet, and took more photos out the windows, a.k.a. “holes in the stone walls.” Then we walked back the other way, past the entryway, and down some oddly-spaced rock steps. I impulsively grabbed the arm of a guy I didn’t know, and was grateful for his assistance.
We stood gawking at the vastness of the wall for a few minutes, completely awed. How many lives had been lost building this 6,000 mile fortress/barrier? How many of those souls still haunted this place? How is the wall now a major international tourist attraction when it had been constructed for the sole purpose of keeping others out?
There were no words. Tears continued to blur my vision. Then after a short while, we all seemed to shake it off and come back from whatever reverie we’d each been personally experiencing. Don and Chris took off on a brisk hike, and Miriam and I went as far as the next archway, before we slowly worked our way back down by a different route, enjoying the many wall views, to the benches in the shade by the top of the cable car.
On the other side of the cable car building there was a booth selling Great Wall souvenirs, and I bought a few refrigerator magnets and folding fans depicting the exact section of the wall I’d seen, certain that in the following months, or maybe even the next morning, I’d think I’d dreamed it all.
Unbelievably, they also had bottles of cold Coke Zero, and I got one for Miriam and one for me, and we sat and enjoyed a very nice breeze until Don and Chris rejoined us. As a pre-emptory measure, I took Tylenol with my caffeine (it works faster that way) and was soon ready to brave hill back down. I had stood on The Great Wall of China.
Quick! Somebody pinch me!