Sunday, November 6, 2011

Back to the Wall

We hiked another section of the Great Wall yesterday, an unrestored section like the one we did with William Lindesay in May. Again, we joined a group – this one a cheerful mixture of French, Belgian, German, British, Irish, Americans – and set off in the rainy cold morning.

Two and a half hours of driving got us out of the smog and out of the rain, although we never saw the sun all day. No matter. The Wall never disappoints.

Although the hike was described as an “easy” one, you need to keep in mind that there’s no getting around the climbing and descending part. After all, the Wall was built on mountaintops to keep out the barbarian invaders. The watch towers helped to spy out possible encroachment too. So we climbed.

The advantage of being up high is the panoramic view you get on the mountaintop. At this spot, called Gubeiko, the Wall dipped in and out of the craggy vista for miles and miles. Far off in the distance, mountain ranges went on and on, getting hazier and bluer as the distance grew.

Because this was the unrestored part of the Wall, there were moments where the path was a narrow wedge with crumbling wall going down many feet into the valley below.

After a fair amount of hiking, we descended into a local village with a restaurant that served dish after dish. When the first dish was a big bowl of chicken, feet and head mixed in with other parts and sliced potatoes, I worried that vegetarian Joanna would go hungry. But so many dishes came out that no one left the table unsatisfied.

No diamonds, no Chanel No. 5, and no smoky-voiced actresses on this trip, but it was a heap of fun, and no one fell off the Wall.

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