I climb down and notice there are flowering dogwood trees and yellow flower trees I do not know the name of. The trees, flowers, and shrubs around here offer a wonder bouquet of smells that swirl around in the mountain’s air currents and heat risers. There is very little noise up here besides that of tourists and cameras constantly clicking. Occasionally you hear the bussing of an insect, which I am not used to on the side of a mountain. I go down the deceptively easy to descend steps to the first stop on the other part of the wall that leads to the rest of the Wall, the longer portion. I take some pictures and start to climb again which is pretty hard as my legs are telling me they have had enough. I make it back up to the top and notice that there are teams of people everywhere; looking through the zoom lens of my camera I can tell getting down will not be easy as people are packed in to any place with shade and remember all those narrow passages???
I make it down the side I need to be going much faster then anticipated. Remembering the sign and path I came upon at the bathrooms I decide it might be a better and much more scenic route to get back down. The path is pretty steep going down and there are no walls so no hand rails. The steps are not as well constructed and some are at bad angles and not entirely stable. The first place you come upon is a large circular stone floor. It looks as though a pagoda is planned on going up here. I can see a pagoda below me so I continue on my way down. I get to the pagoda and find a few other people; I rest from the heat and take some pictures filling my 1 GB memory card. At least now I know I no longer have to pause for pictures. As I look down I notice the path is completely going the wrong way, and it looks as if it deposits you outside the park and therefore separating me from my waiting wife and ride back. Now I have a hard choice, take an easier path that I have no clue where it goes, meaning it may not really be easier… or go up all those bad steps and get back to the Wall which will definitely get me where I have to go. At this point adventure is out the window and hard work is all that is left.
It is hot now and I am really tired. I peel off my shirt and make my way back up. This is harder they any section of the wall was so it takes me a while. I finally get back to the top and the people there seem to have doubled. I begin my decent rather rapidly. I make good time as I have to dodge many lines of all sorts of people on my way down. They are all using the hand rails making it hard to get down. As I am basically running a few thoughts cross my mind. The first is all these uneven and worn steps are making it hard to descend the steps correctly. I can just image twisting my ankle and then tumbling down a few yards worth of stone steps and then all the hassle from their. The second is my high-school physics teacher who said walking was just a controlled form of falling. That is what I felt like now; I was controlling a very long fall. I turned to look up and was amazed how fast I had gotten ½ way down. I seemed to be getting quite a bit of stares for 1) running 2) being without a shirt on a sunny day and 3) I was breathing heavy and was probably red in color from a combination of the first 2 points. I finally made it to the last section without twisting an ankle or breaking my neck and despite a rapid pulse felt perfect. I tried to call my wife but it seemed my cell phone was having major issues. After making it to the market area I finally found her in a large air conditioned tent with a bowl of soup and a book. We chatted while I caught my breath, got some water and then headed to the souvenir shop. We picked up just a few items as it seemed the merchants were unwilling to bargain around too much.
We found our driver and he offered to take us to a restaurant for lunch, as long as we bought him lunch, how could we refuse? We stopped at a small farm house looking building, with a huge parking lot decorated with many flags. Soon we were seated, being the only people here, and given menus. I had to ask what was on the menu as it was all just written Chinese. At this point I found out my phone was out of minutes, it seems the phone card we bought the day earlier had run out last evening and this morning when I was checking my email. We ordered our food, some tea and Coco and the driver chatted quite a bit, him asking me questions through her from time to time. The food arrived and we ate and tried to stay cool as it was getting hotter. The cab driver was saying the Wall was a better later day activity as many tourists would go the Forbidden City or other places in the morning when it was cooler and then head to the Wall after lunch in air conditioned busses. At the elevation the Wall is and with all the plants it stays much cooler then the all concrete area of Tiananmen or Beijing for that matter.
We finished our meal and headed back, getting off the highway because Coco was not feeling well again and because she wanted to stop and get another phone card for my cell phone (at least here going over your minutes is not such a huge deal!). We stopped at some small town on the road and rested, which Coco really needed. We then continued toward Beijing and being dropped off where we got picked up, the coin museum was closed.
We took a taxi back and for the first time in our trip to Beijing we were not ripped off of taken the long way! It was almost dark now and we traveled down the alleyway full of bars and street merchants, stopping off here and their to browse and just see what was what, even at a tattoo parlor, Coco was curious about that and so was I. We stopped off at a pizza place recommended to us but they told us we had to wait for almost 30 minutes to get a table, we gave them my cell phone number and headed back to the lakeside.
We walked around the lake and many of the bars in this area had their lakeside tables open so we stopped at one to have a drink and for me to delete some bad pictures so I could get some night pictures, it was a wonderful sunset. As I enjoyed a beer I realized this marked the 18th anniversary, to the day, of my trip to Philmont Boy Scout Ranch in Cimarron just outside of Taos New Mexico on the old Santa Fe Trail. That trip also included a lot of climbing, but much more and over 8 days! It was nice to know that 18 years later I was still in good enough shape to spend nearly an entire day of climbing steps. Of course this time I was not lugging around a 60lbs backpack.
Finishing my beer we remembered the pizza place and checked my cell phone, no service, so we hurried into the alleyways to the pizza place, Hu Tong Pizza. We were able to get a seat when I remembered in the hurry to get here I paid for my beer, 15 RMB but forgot to get my change; I paid with a 100 RMB bill. I found our waiter but he just played ignorant. Finally I found a person there who spoke English and tried to get her to translate. Soon there were 3 of them and me and I started to get a bit frustrated as I have seen this thing happen overseas to sailors many times before. Finally I think they just were tired of me and I was starting to make a scene and must have no longer been worth the trouble as they gave me my change and I was then on my way back to Hu Tong.
Inside I found my wife sitting is a nice little spot. The floor is actually an open fish tank with glass covering ½ of it and the rest open but railed off so it is hard to fall in, sober anyway. We ordered our food and waited for what seemed a very long time, this is a very popular restaurant and they were busy. When asked when our food was to be delivered, Coco finished her salad and was again not feeling too well, was told we had to move to another seat to make room for a larger party arriving in a few moments.
The pizza came out, and to be 100% honest it was not as good as people had told me. It was good, but not worth the nearly 90 minute wait at this point. Coco ate very little; being pregnant she is no longer in control of her appetite. I ate as much as I wanted to and we paid and left. There was an odd CD store/bar on the way back, I stepped in and there was only 1 person there with a guitar. Coco came in and we looked and some of their CDs, that is when I noticed the very modest little bar, and then left. We arrived at the hotel and sat for a few minutes relaxing.
An American showed up, he was a college student from Alaska and had dropped out of his tour group and decided to spend 1 more day in Beijing and then go see the Terracotta Warriors a few hours away. I would have loved to go, but Coco would not have wanted to travel their and we still had some things to see the next day. The college student said he was going to the Llama Temple the next day and a few other places and if we wanted to join him we could. Coco said it was ok and so we agreed to meet up in the morning. I was pretty beat and Coco was tired too, so we showered and headed off to bed