Sweating on the Great Wall
In the planning of this trip, I made an early decision that I would not spend much time in Beijing. After all, I’ve been here before and seen the big ticket sights, and on the whole would rather save my vacation days for new things.
Except for the Great Wall. I wanted to go to the Great Wall with Steve.
- It’s really, really beautiful.
- Moving around and getting plenty of exercise helps counter jet lag. (And I thought would be a good prelude to getting on a train the following morning, back before we discovered we would need to fly to Mongolia.)
I wrote after my last visit about the extreme number of steps on the Wall. Surprise: they’re still there! (They may have multiplied, actually, like bunnies.)
I maintain that, although I know I’m carrying a few extra pounds, I am not in terrible shape. I’m reasonably active, go to the gym, etc.
But the Wall. The Wall slaughtered me.
I was huffing and puffing enough to blow down brick houses–forget about those lightweight stick constructions. And I was sweating in a way that I am embarassed to admit. Gallons, I think. It was not a pretty sight. I saw one or two other (younger and skinnier, both of them) people on the wall breathing roughly as hard as I was, but NO ONE else could match me in the sweat department. It was bad.
Eventually, in desperation and the desire to let my shirt dry, I convinced a reluctant Steve to continue on without me. (I was terribly afraid that if he stuck with me he wouldn’t get to the cool part of the Wall, where it’s less maintained and the people are fewer.)
With Steve charging ahead, I slowed down. Way down. Then I stopped. Thought, Why don’t I sit for a bit, and did.
So let me tell you. This half hour or so while I was just sitting might have been my favorite part of the day. The people are from everywhere. I heard so many languages–English in a variety of accents. German. Something that sounded like a northern European language, maybe Dutch. Spanish. French (though not spoken by native speakers). Asian languages that I cant’s accuragely identify, but which were probably Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. If I knew enough about fashion, I’m sure I’d have marveled at that, too. (Seriously, what are those little plastic antenae things that people are wearing on their heads? Flowers popping up, and weird things.)
The people seemed to come in waves, so that there were minutes together where no one was around, and I could hear the birds and the insects and the hum of the cable car motor, trundling in the distance.
By the time Steve got back from his sprint up to the upper peaks of the Wall, my shirt was dry, too.
Here’s the very cool bit: to get down from the Wall, we took a toboggan. (This is like the alpine slides that the ski resorts have for summer visitors, only much longer.)
This was very, very fun. I could have gone up the chair lift and down the toboggan all day, no complaints.
So all in all a fun visit to Mutianyu, but I do feel the need to come back and redeam myself on some future visit.
Edited to add: Read Steve’s Beijing posts here: