Thursday, April 14, 2011

Monday, April 11, 2011 (on the Great Wall)

UP AGAINST THE WALL: We got going fairly early on Monday, leaving the house at 7:30. We took a 90-minute drive to the beginning of our trail. We entered the Great Wall hiking area at Gubeikou, after driving through Huairou and Miyun.
We and our tour guide Leo met up with our local guide, Chou (right), who led the way to the east.
Speaking of "sneakers," Chou was nice enough to buy something for me beforehand. When he met with us, he said he had my "sneakers."
I looked down at my hiking boots and thought my footwear was in good hands.
What did he mean? Then it became apparent that his "sneakers" was my "Snickers." He had brought SIX candy bars (at the ever-vigilant Leo's suggestion). Chou, by the way, sported some well-worn green-white-black Nike sneakers (right).
Back to the hike. It was spectacular. We had a rugged go of it, covering the 14 kilometers in about four hours, with a break for a Snickers-enfused lunch.
Both Sandy and I thought it was much more "spiritual" if you will to be on the sections that had NOT been restored.
This was visceral, or something. Walking on the partially ruined section seemed to prompt us to be much more vigilant about our surroundings (e.g., footing, of course) and seemed to encourage us to use our imaginations more to think about what it was like to build, occupy, attack and live in the shadow of such a military structure. Looking for some kind of articulation for this, I stumbled across something in the in-flight magazine for Air China that was on our flight back to Singapore on April 13. It was written by an archaeologist (whose name was in Chinese and is therefore unknown to me). Here goes:
"...however, if we think reversely we will find that under specific conditions the beauty of incompleteness outweighs that of completeness. The charm of 'Venus with broken arms' is well known around the world...."
Maybe there's some thing there. (Source: "The Beauty of Deficiency Exceeds That of Perfection" China Charm, April 2011, pages 99 and 100.) Anyway, this hike was breathtaking. Well worth it. (I ate only ONE Snickers bar, by the way.)
We ended he hike at the Jinshanling section of the wall.

TOTALLY OFF THE WALL: For about a third of our hike, we had to leave the Great Wall and follow it along the ground on the northern side. The reason? China has a military installation that occupies a portion on the southern side (right).
This actually led us to some interesting sights, such as abandoned house. And we saw a nearly-abandoned lamb, which was caught in a thicket. About the time we spotted the animal, we came face to face with the shepherd (above) who towered above us on a hilltop and was about to pry the lamb loose. Also, we saw something we hadn't seen since we left Massachusetts in February: SNOW (below).

1 comment:

  1. I am in Spain so have just caught up on you blog. I also bought four paddles and two balls when I was in the park so we can all exercise together when you return to Winchester! I will get a head start and practice before you return home.