Today I’m on the only man-made structure visible from space: the Great Wall of China! We aso get to visit the Bird’s Nest in Beijing…enjoy!

Originally posted 21/06/14 on TravelPod.

The Wall

Today was the day. I had it circled on the itinerary 6 months ago.

Today we visited the Great Wall of China.

I’ll admit that I was a bit giddy when the bus pulled into the parking lot. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Wall of China is the only man-made structure on Earth visible from space. We had been driving for about an hour & a half to get there, so we were slightly outside the Beijing city limits. It was quickly apparent that Beijing must be located either in a ravine or on a less mountainous area, because as you step out of the bus it felt as if you were amongst the clouds. Then again, maybe because it was just a gentle drizzle. I was a bit bummed that it wasn’t sunny – I wanted to really get some fantastic photos. It wouldn’t take long for me to be happy it wasn’t – but more on that in a bit.

After making our way through the usual vendors hawking ponchos & phrase books, we made our way to the base of the wall and, after our chaperone Gloria told us that we had 2 hours to visit the wall and make our way back down, she would be “waiting for us in the coffee shop”. Having been a tour guide myself, I understood why she would not be accompanying us on our trek – once you visit a tourist attraction multiple times, even if it is the Great Wall, it begins to lose its lustre.

Now I know I am not in shape. And I knew that this climb was going to test my endurance. But no amount of training beforehand could have possibly helped. The first part of the trek was along a steady incline that was easy enough to handle. Then came the stairs. Not only were there a lot them, they were also uneven. Now for someone of my short stature, that made things even more difficult. At some points, the combination of stair height and severe incline meant that the stair in front of me was at my hip. I have no shame in mentioning that it was a very tough climb – you were easily winded and really had to make sure that you stopped frequently (which I did), and constantly kept yourself hydrated. And I wasn’t the only one – everyone, regardless of race, religion, or age, found the going tough. It was as if we all were living through the same life experience – that of humanity. People were kind, always lending a helping hand, offering words of encouragement, and constantly smiling. And the smiling was for a very simple reason – we were all climbing the Great Wall of China. One we reached our respective plateaus, we were able to look out over the valley and admire the climb we had just completed.

Then it was time for the return back to solid ground, and let me tell you that that was not easy either. It’s the only time in my life where I was actually sweating going DOWN stairs! Holding onto the railing for dear life, my legs were trembling and felt like Jell-O by the time we were done. Despite the intense cardio workout & and missing stones due to reconstruction, I can proudly say that I have now climbed the Great Wall of China and scratch it off my life’s bucket list!

Higher. Faster. Stronger.

After a brief lunch on the second floor above a jade factory, we traveled back to Beijing and made our way to the Bird’s Nest, the nickname for Beijing’s Olympic Stadium. The architecture was spectacular. Then, unbeknownst to me, we had the opportunity to visit the interior of the stadium. I know that, being a Montrealer, we are lucky to come from an Olympic city, but being able to visit the site of another Olympic host city was very special to me. The stadium seats over 100,000 people and it was easy to just sit there and soak in the knowledge that I was in China and visiting a location that was an important part of MY world history – I can still remember watching Hussein Bolt crush the world record in the Men’s 100-meter dash.

Dinner that evening was also a special treat, as we dined on dumplings, or what I like to call Chinese perogies. Stuffed with everything from mutton, chicken, shrimp, and vegetables, we all thoroughly enjoyed our meal. On our walk back to the hotel, we visited a traditional night food market, or what I will affectionately call the “everything-on-a-stick market”. While things on a stick are usually a good time, the choice of fare was a bit other-worldly, including squid, scorpions, tarantulas, penis (yes, penis), and bull testicles. I did not try any of the “street meat”

Apparently, fear is indeed a factor for me.