The Great Wall February 27-Day 54
MCP 03 - 2 - 2010

February 27-Day 54-The Great Wall I was nervous about today. I had been fighting a severe cold for days, still didn't feel well, and my knee had just started feeling better after twisting it in Istanbul. One wrong step and I could be in serious trouble as this section of the wall is not a tourist destination and is in a rougher/more original condition than the section near Beijing city. Awaking to snow that morning was yet another surprise! We were to hike over eight kilometers and had around four hours to get to the other end of the section. Eight kilometers doesn't seem very long, but taking into account the very steep grade changes, lack of maintenance, gusty wind/snow, and the possibility of falling to your death (ok a little dramatic, but true none-the-less), it was to be a life moment to remember! It was spitting snow as we headed up the mountain to the wall. There were four core people in my hiking sub-group, with some others moving in and out. We were the slow ones, but we did enjoy the views of the mountainous landscape around us: taking pictures, looking for footholds, and trying to avoid the snowy/icy sections. Unlike American laws, most countries do not over-protect the tourist population and in the Great Wall's case, there were no barriers or handrails to keep you from tumbling over. It was amazing to think that Chinese soldiers actually had to patrol and fight the Mongolians from this very wall with crazy inclines and steps that almost impossible to climb. What was even stranger is the fact that we were escorted by Mongolian farmers trying to sell knickknacks or earn tips by helping us. Needless to say we tried to lose them, but didn't succeed to the midpoint where we stopped for lunch and it was obvious they weren't getting anything from us. We continued to hike and while the temperatures were below freezing and brisk winter winds were blowing, we were more than enough warm in our performance gear. By the end I had completely sweated through my layers all the way to the winter coat. We had been hiking for nearly four hours and we were definitely started to feel it: dehydration, muscle cramps, and for Amanda and I who were still fighting colds, we had nearly run out of Kleenex. We were all hoping the end was in sight and were concerned by the very steep set of stairs looming in the distance when we ran into a French couple that pointed out the rendezvous point that was about 40 minutes ahead. We moved with new energy (or what was left of our energy) and with Sara and Amanda serving as cheerleaders Lori and I climbed the last few hundred meters. We were met by our guide Harry at the end and he led us to the zipline finish over the reservoir. The hike was such an amazing experience and one of the craziest things this non-hiker has done. It is truly one of the most memorable days of the trip thus far! Who knows….I might just do it again someday, but next time in the Spring!

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