Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Hanging Great Wall

After spending the morning in and around the Jiayu Pass I was amped for my next stop, the Hanging Great Wall. These two outposts of the Great Wall protected a valley entrance into China from the North, home of the Mongols. I sure as sh** would not want to be the dude standing there watching any Khan coming my way.

There was no bus but there is a nice little setup to get you there. Outside the Jiayu Pass park sit the ever present taxi's knowing you need to get to the wall. The deal was great, $50 rmb for the 5km drive (something I could have easily walked but not on this day). The ride included a pickup later to bring you back to the bus stop near the Pass. My driver was friendly and funny. He gave me his number and told me to take my time, to enjoy myself. Call him any time and he will come and get me. I had absolutely no reason to think he was lying.

I had the special ticket so I walked up to the entrance, the ticket was scanned, I was searched and in I went. Normal cost was $120 rmb so ASK FOR THE SPECIAL TICKET. Almost immediately you could see a tower atop the hill directly in front of you. A few more paces and the line of the wall appeared. The Great Wall of China was directly in front of me, whoohooo!! There was a really well done tribute to the Ancient Silk Road with colorful camels and characters symbolically heading East. The pride of the Ancient Silk Road is engraved in Chinese history and culture. A mild Canadian comparison has to be the Great Fur Trade of the 17th and 18th Century. No, not a direct historical comparison but the importance to the history and emergence of Canada as an independent nation. The Hudson Bay Company still exists, barely, as a retail operation, The Bay.

This is not the "Great Wall" that so many people climb near Beijing. The remoteness and time of year meant one important thing, a limited number of people. At the start of the actual wall itself and guide was talking to 2 young German travelers. She was explaining the history of the area so I stopped, smiled and listened. She was immediately inclusive and when the Germans were on their way we talked for about 20 minutes and I gleaned quite a bit from her. She took my photos and stressed for me to "Many people run up the wall to the top, take their pictures and come back down. Take your time and think of History". This was my type of guide.

How can I describe the moment? You chose: exhilarating, exciting, mystifying, satisfying, humbling, any one will do. The climb to the rampart was steep and took about 30 minutes. Once you reach the summit the views over the valley explained the logic of the location. You could see for as far as they could see in any direction. The most important, as it was explained to me, was it could see down the directly down the valley between the two black rock hill ranges which was the only way to attack the fort from the North. I still would not want to see the Mongols coming down the valley.

There were fantastic hiking trails beyond the wall so off I went. As a good Canadian lad the first thing to spring to mind was to build an Inuksuk. Yes, it's a Canadian thing. I though showing it in front of the blurred out Great Wall rampart was a nice shot. To most it's a pile rocks but to any Canadian reading this they "get it". We all have our peccadilloes. The trails were mostly well worn and easy to navigate but they did have quite a bit of scree and loose footings that you had to be careful with, especially if you went off roading which was something I obviously was going to do.

But, my excitement was tempered as I bent over to tighten my laces and come up quickly I suddenly was tripping like it was 1978. Light headed and a bit of the spins I sat down and it did not take a genius to suddenly realize I in all my excitement of the day I did not drink any water, none. What a rookie mistake.. Yes there was 2 warming litres in my pack along with potato chips for salt, cookies for sugar and beef jerky for fuel. Now was a good time for lunch you dumbass. I did enjoy the lightheaded moment and the memory flashbacks :)

I spent a few hours wandering the mountains and trails taking it all in. The walk down was easy enough and took about 20 minutes. I passed through another dedication to the Silk Road, beautifully carved statues and monuments. I called the number the cab driver gave me, told him I was ready and went to the entrance to wait. A worker with decent English was sitting in the shade drinking a beer and called me over. . He was happy to practice his English and when I rattled off a bit of Chinese the others around laughed and applauded and like magic I had a beer in my hand. We talked about everything and nothing as you do here sometimes. My driver arrived 10 minutes later so I drained the beer, said my good byes. The taxi dropped me off at the bus stop and I waited for the number 1 bus back to the city. A bit of reflection time.

I need to be up early for the train to Dunhuang. I really do not know what to expect with Dunhuang but in my mind I see a small dusty town edged on the Gobi Desert. What I do know is the train is an old and slow so its time for a bit of Old School travel tomorrow.  I suspect the toilet is a hole directly onto the tracks.

Not all was glorious in the Middle Kingdom. Yesterday my right eye was feeling a bit off. Today it had evolved watery itchy mess. It was a bit scary looking however behind my glasses it was well hidden so I would not be scaring any children on this day. I had it looked at back in Xi'an and it was quickly determined to be conjunctivitis. Four days of medical drops and all was right again.

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