I have been to the Great Wall at various locations around China. One of my most vivid memories is exploring where the Wall meets the sea. I recall crossing a ravine by way of a rickety ladder and trying not to think about what would happen if I lost my balance. At that point, the Wall is really more an earthen mound, but a friend and I enjoyed – more than 15 years ago – traversing the dramatic landscape and walking among the fields as we made our way to the ocean.
In August, having been in Beijing for two days, my husband I realized we had never been to this iconic site together and decided that this was something we needed to do. So, with our daughter, we took off one hot Saturday morning for Badaling, a popular spot that provides a child-friendly gondola up to one of the better maintained pieces of the Wall.
On that day, we were reminded of China’s huge population – 1.3 billion people and counting – as we shuffled along, taking turns holding our daughter to ensure she was not trampled or, at the very least, swept away, in the crowd. As we approached narrow passages and staircases, the hordes became unbearable, and I feared that if one person lost his step, we would all be lost. Needless to say, we made a short day of it.
So when my mother arrived with a family friend a couple of weeks ago and wanted to visit the wall, I had to think for a bit before I decided to try it again. Surely a weekday in November would be less crowded than a Saturday in August?
Initially, we took the same somewhat less crowded path my family had wandered three months earlier, but then I noticed a part of the wall – off in the distance – that appeared, by comparison, deserted. Getting to this oasis of space required a hike up and down many stairs and slopes, but we decided it would be worth it to have a bit of Wall to ourselves.
The terrain was indeed steep and difficult, but it was totally worth the exertion to find some peace and quiet. I also realized, a bit too late, that clogs might not be the best footwear when descending down paving stones worn smooth with age and slippery as ice. At one point, while clutching the rail for support, I found myself shaking my head and saying to no one in particular, “Clogs? Seriously? What was I thinking?!” This moment of regret passed quickly as I tried to interpret a sign that read, “Front the Slope Steep Please Lose Headway.” Huh?
The newfound walk proved exhilarating and my friend, Julie, and I enjoyed it thoroughly (my mother, after getting her photo taken on the crenulated wall, retired to the picnic area to wait for us). We walked for a couple of hours and though my thighs were burning, I couldn’t have been more content. Of course, since that day, I find myself distracted by what piece of wall I can explore next.
Visit DeliciousBaby’s to see more photos.