Ray and I woke up at 5am this morning to climb a very difficult portion of the Great Wall. We joined a group of people from the Far East International Youth Hostel. There are basically four parts of the Great Wall that tourists can walk and we decided to take the most unexplored portion, a 10 kilometer walk from Jinshanling to Simatai. We took a three hour bus ride and then we walked on a wall so exposed to the elements that it was magnificent in its ruin.
We literally saw around 30 people on the wall the whole time we were there and it was understandable why this was the case. Portions of the wall had no stairs and we would just have to improvise our way through. Some people weren’t able to make it and had to take a short cut through the mountains. Luckily, we brought enough water almost all the way to the end and then we were able to purchase some from barefoot toothless peddlers sitting in a few of the towers. Halfway through the climb, we had a break to eat some bananas and apples to help us have some extra energy to keep going. The walk was challenging, but well worth the 4.5 hour up and down climb in the hot sun!
A fortunate surprise was the Polish couple we met on the bus. They had moved to England three years ago and talked about the huge salary difference. They said they had worked for years in Poland to save up for a wedding and in one year of working in England, Damian as a carpet cleaner and Asia as a receptionist, they were able to save up for a wedding that exceeded all their expectations in the Tatry Mountains in Poland.
We ended up inviting them out to the dinner we had with our Chinese friends, Coco and Yang at the great Peking Duck place. We ended up ordering an obscene amount of food and paying a very small amount for it. We had so many leftovers that would feed about 15 more people! Coco gave Ray and I some official Beijing olympic gifts and invited us to come to Beijing and stay with her next year. It was a perfect night and a perfect end to climbing the Great Wall, something I have wanted to do my whole life.