After passing through the quaint tourist shops we reached the foot of a secluded part of the Great Wall of China on the remote border of Inner Mongolia, one hour out of Beijing and it looked daunting but doable. Scaling the mountain was pleasant at first, with patches of snow on the way side but after ten minutes the burn in the thighs kicked in. After an idle winter in the UK and the regular use of my car, my legs were not used to climbing/walking distances of length. I regret telling everyone that I was keen on reaching point 23 after starting point 10 as I finally crawled to the top, out of breath, I knew it was worth it.
The view was breathtaking, just miles of mountains as far as the eye could see and the wall appeared to span even further than that. The sheer determination of the Chinese was a cornerstone of their empire as a deterrence to keep out invading Mongolians. I don’t know why they would need a wall since climbing the mountain would tire out any attackers wanting to invade. To imagine how difficult it was to carry a backpack up the climb I can’t fathom how could they could heave giant stones up here to build the wall.
We then made the journey to reach post 23. Patches of snow lay in the shade where the sun could not reach it and there was a chill in the air. This made the perfect climbing conditions as it kept us cool…over time I had to lose my hat and gloves to keep my body temperature at a reasonable level. Apart from Phil and Ed who had raced to the end (damn their youthfulness) I mingled with the others who leisurely took everything in. At one stage I crept up a narrow stairwell to reach the top of one of the posts and pretended to see what the day in a Chinese guard’s day would be like. Isolated was the word that came to mind.
The group of us finally made it to the bottom of post 23 after hours of trekking and this climb seemed the worst. Our guide Jade was smart enough to give it a miss and waited for us at the bottom, so we took off on the vertical ascent of 100s of stairs. Andy and Felipe flew to the top while Rob and myself struggled behind waiting for Gina. After a few breaks I said “forget this!” and sprinted to the top, Rocky-style. The view was the best so far and fortunately Felipe brought along his guitar so we all had a sing-along of our version of “Shout” and Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are” to the amusement of other Wall goers.
On the way back there was a man selling drinks and chocolate. He did his best to sell me something, I told him, “If you remember my name, I’ll buy something on the way back”. On our second meeting he shouted meekly “I remember you!”. “What is my name?” I questioned the man…”Uhhh rah- uhhh”. Close enough. I bought a Snickers.