My alarm went off at 7:00 am, right as rain. I woke up about 8 am, which left me 30 minutes to get ready to be picked up. I did it. I was ready and waiting, but the guy driving me was a little late. But he totally made up for it by driving me the two hours it takes to get to the Great Wall at Simatai. It's considered one of the Wonders of the World. We got there around 10:45 am, and the driver would just hang out and wait for me there until 3 pm. Sweet.
For the first 45 minutes or so, I had 4 little women trying to sell me stuff. They followed along pretty well, but I think that they resented having to go so fast to stay even with me. I eventually caved and bought some photo books, mostly so they'd leave me alone. Around that time, I overtook a group of Army guys taking a day trip. I guess I should be more specific. They were soldiers in the People's Liberation Army, and they were hiking in uniform. So there I am, a lone American outdistancing the warriors of China's military. I thought that was kinda cool.
It was raining off and on, so we ducked into one of the towers. I heard one of them break out singing Ricky Martin..."Go go go, onay onay onay". Kinda funny. I kept pace or moved through them as long as I had time for. While following their leader (distinguished by a red armband), I walked for a short time on the invader side of the wall. At one point, I thought a branch sticking out of the wall was going to hit my face, until I realized that it was actually a snake coming out from a hole 5 inches from my head and hand! Let's see something cool like that happen on the touristy parts.
By the time I had to turn around, at Beacon Tower No. 14, only about 7 PLA soldiers were still moving toward me. And even then, they were 10 minutes back.
|Try to keep up, fellas!|
|Taking a break from climbing|
A rampart named "Heavenly Ladder" was built on the nearly vertical slopes between the No. 13 and the No. 14 towers. Every step is 1.2 to 1.7 meters high. How (and a little bit of 'why') they built the wall here, 450 years ago, and built a stairway of bricks and stones across such uncooperative terrain was definitely something to ponder as I looked at the next tower.
|"Dangerous Ahead, No Walking"|
|The Heavenly Ladder, with the Fairy Tower in the background|
|Going back down...|
|Left to right and back in under 3 hours.|
|My favorite picture from Simatai|