Climbing the Great Wall of China

Nicholas Quirke was feeling proud of his endurance on 9 May 2020 as he descended from an arduous climb up the Great Wall of China at Simatai, regarded as the most dangerous and majestic section of the entire Great Wall. Peng has driven them from Beijing to Gubei Water Town,, a historic ancient village which has become a major holiday destination as a result of its authentic traditional courtyard style. It was a 2.5 hour drive through some staggeringly beautiful scenery which, with mists wraithed around the mountain tops were particularly haunting. and they arrived by 9.30 am but it took them and hour to get through security and into the protected town and their hotel as the health kit did not work and although he had official documentation from the Community officers which had served him well everywhere else, they were reluctant to accept that there was a bug in the system. He fortunately discovered a screen shot of the health kit when it had been working and when they saw that all concerns seemed to evaporate. The hotel was lovely but they were anxious to start their day and after dropping off their bags, organising some provisions for themselves they set of to explore The Great Wall of China. A short walk through a small section of the town showed him what a beautiful location it was and he looked forward to exploring It later on. There was a cable car which took sightseers up to a section of the wall but they had decided to walk up the mountain instead to the start of the wall trail. He hadn’t really considered what the climb would involve even though he could see that the battlements were progressively higher and higher and unlike the last section of wall he had been on in 2018, which undulated through the mountains, this was a treacherous steep path along escarpments to its peak. At times the steps were calf deep which was punishing on the legs and there were steep inclines which were equally demanding. It took 3 hours to get to the top, and though the wall continued, access to the remainder was prohibited. It was then time for the descent, but not before Nicholas had recorded a live video on FB to share his accomplishment. The descent was swifter but they were hungry and had located a restaurant in the town. Nicholas was feeling the pain in his feet and was keen to get seated after 4.5 hours of climbing and walking but he still observed how beautiful and ancient it felt. It was as if they had stepped into the past or onto a film set. Enroute to the restaurant he was treated to an authentic snack, a bridge cake, before devouring the good wholesome food they were served and he was able to allow his feet to breathe. As they returned to the hotel, while Peng enjoyed a hawthorn ice cream, Nicholas was treated to candied hawthorns on a stick stuffed with red bean paste and as he ate, looked up at the mountain barely believing that he had scaled the peaks he was seeing. Euphoria and exhaustion overtook him and in that mood demanded rest for a couple of hours, before heading out to the mountain yet again, though this time by cable car to enjoy the wall at night. They views from the car of their wall and the town at night were spectacular, and through they were only allowed on the wall between the 5th and 6th battlements it felt like a truly unique and special moment. Even High in the mountain they could hear the sound of entertainment coming from the water town and once they returned to the valley headed to the square where films were being projected onto one of the old temple buildings. The town and the waterways, which they would explore properly the next day, looked so romantic and beautiful in the night lights and this image of the ancient town occupied his head as his fatigued frame welcomed sleep

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