Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Back from Beijing (Part 4) - Up the Great Wall of China

[From: Part 3 - Inside the Forbidden City]

While approaching the Wall at Juyong Guan by car, it didn't appear all that impressive.
Approaching the Great Wall

The walk up the wall would be a piece of cake. It's gonna be a breeze to get to the top most guard tower, I thought. Ah, my city-bred cockiness knows no bounds, heh.
Starting the Climb

More stairs to climbAll sense of cockiness quickly vanished as took the stairs (it felt more like a climb). The thinner and colder air, along with the biting wind, soon had me panting and sniffling. Each step became slower and stiffer.

You're not supposed to suffer on a vacation! What was I thinking of, climbing the Great Wall? It seems my wife and I just like to subject ourselves to physical exertion while on vacation.

The guide later told us that each time he brought vacationers to the wall, 80% of them never make it past the first guard post (which was maybe 50 to 100 steps). They all chose to turn back and wait in the bus.

Thinking back, I can understand why. You're lulled into a sense of complacency as you start your walk up the wall. You see steps and handrails, and you wonder how hard it would be to walk up a flight of stairs. You tend to underestimate the effort required.

I think most overseas vacationers (like myself) fail to take take into account the wind, the cold and slightly thinner air. But what is first to go aren't our muscles but our mental strength.

About 50 steps up the wall, I haboured thoughts of turning back. I was making excuses why there's no point trying to make it up to the top. Where was the top anyway? There's nothing to see but dull coloured hills.
Wind Blown Shrubs

But my wife and I decided to continue. We walked and rested as much or as little as we wanted. Much of the walk up the wall, all I saw was this.
Worn Steps on the Great Wall

All I heard was my breathing, the wind against my windbreaker, my shoes on the stone steps (that were quite worn out on the side where there were railings, which made me wonder just how many feet it required to wear out the step like that).

At one point, I looked back and saw this.
Looking Back
Might as well just keep going up.

The walk became easier. I was able to moderate my exertion (reminding myself I'm not the 19 year old anymore). Winter was an off-peak tourist season so there weren't large crowds to contend with. I was able to take in and enjoy the sights.

It's not a contest.
More Stairs

Next: More pictures and learning points from Walking the Chinese Wall.

1 comment:

  1. This trip will make you very fit ya. All those climbing exercise your legs and heart.. hee hee... A friend of mine went last year, said very tired trip.


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