Monday, November 9, 2009

Crab Walking the Wall

We arranged a Great Wall tour through our hostel. We were supposed to hike 8 km of the Wall today (with drop off and pick-up), but we got halfway there and it was sleeting.
Our driver pulled over and announced it was too dangerous to hike. A whiny Brit in the back of the bus demonstrated his ign'ance by declaring he knew it was going to snow today and that's why he chose to go. Surely we're all dressed for the weather and have walked in the rain before, he proposed.
There's a certain grim satisfaction that comes from being an Alaskan (or from anywhere, I suppose, that has real weather) and watching someone broadcast such stupidity.
So instead we just went to one sight, Simatai, and took a cable car up to the wall. We were initially told we'd take the cars up and then make a 90-minute walk down. From what I hear, there are typically two ways to do the Wall: You go to one of the postcard-picturesque sections and it's a madhouse, or you go to a dilapidated, less impressive section for a quieter experience. We got to go to the former, sans crowd due to weather (the sight will be closed for snow tomorrow).
My heart dropped when we arrived on top. It's really an awesome view. Then James and I had the unique and rather hairy experience of being the only people to walk down the wall.
We were tramping around, taking pictures, and then figured we better start walking down. I thought everyone else had started to walk down too and we were just behind. But really everyone else chose to take cable cars down. If I'd known, I would've taken them down too: There were sections of tall, steep, narrow, icy slick steps that slanted downhill. No handrails. But once we started, we weren't going to climb back up those same steps. For parts we crab walked, some we slid on our butts, and others just clung and sidestepped. I never felt panicked, but I did feel very nervous a time or two.
And that's how we got to walk down the length of five towers, completely alone with all that history. At the bottom of the section we took a zip line down to the parking lot ("very safe! Walk down 25 minute, fly down only 5!")
Great pictures to follow when I get back to the States.
Tomorrow we take the night train to Xi'an.

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