After finally falling asleep around 4:00 a.m. I was pissed when my alarm started going off at 6:30. Time to get up, the driver is here.
For about $80.00 USD Tiffany, Kate and myself booked a car and driver for the day on Monday for the purpose of going to see the Great Wall at Mutianyu. I roused myself and threw on a pair of boots and my biggest baddest jacket and stepped outside to grab a coffee. I met the girls who immediately teased me for being from Seattle and drinking a Starbucks coffee in Beijing. Yea, maybe it is "funny" but there is a lot of shit coffee here, and there is a lot of expensive coffee here. A classic Pike Roast drip from Starbucks is neither of those things, so when I am not feeling adventurous I opt for the good ol' Seattle brew.
Our driver pulled up in a old school VW, we piled in and we were off.
Thirty minutes into our drive we were in a China that I have not experienced yet. The urban environment that makes up my world gave way to a much more rural setting. Small towns, kids at school, older folks sitting on the front stoop, people working, beautiful scenes. Every person I saw was bundled up head to toe, the temperature was in the mid 20's as I recall. There were so many abandoned buildings, I thought it was very strange. We were all chatting and having a nice drive despite being absolutely exhausted. Tiffany screamed as our driver did some dare devil passing on a small village road alongside a river and both Tiffany and I were rightfully entertained at Kate's stories of her experiences working as a singer in Dubai.
Once we arrived at our destination, we paid some sort of ticket fee and made our way towards a ski lift that would take us up to the wall. The shabby looking lift only fit two people, so being the gentleman I am I went up front alone and the girls rode together behind me.
I was wearing the biggest baddest North Face down, subzero, fur hood coat you can purchase in Seattle, some pants with long underwear underneath and wool socks with boots. It was not enough. I have never been so cold in my entire life as I was riding that stupid ski lift to the top of the Great Wall. The wind was blowing in from Mongolia, it was 7:00 am and clear sunny skies. The outdoor temperature was about -6 Celsius, which is about 20 degrees Fahrenheit but the wind blowing in from the north was just awful. I was a watermelon being decimated by the hammer of the celestial arctic ice Gallagher.
Once we got to the top of the wall we spent some time wandering back and forth between the guard towers. The Great Wall in itself is really an amazing thing to see, and the view from the wall was equally incredible. Mongolia was to the north of the wall, and China to the south. I was under the impression that the wall was going to be a straight line, but in truth the wall winds all over the place. In total the structure covers over 13,000 miles of terrain including natural barriers such as rocks and rivers. It is a true testament to the power of ancient China. Interestingly enough the wall consists of many different sections, and unfortunately the entire wall was never connected fully. Thus, invading armies would just swarm in and invade China through the gaps in the wall. <insert Homer Simpson "DOH!>
After wandering around for a while and checking out the view we were ready to go. The section of the wall we visited was limited in how far you could walk in either direction before there were large sections in disrepair. As the sun came up the temperature started to rise and the ice on the wall started to melt so walking back to the ski lift was not as difficult as walking away from it.
This part of the day was crazy. You only take the ski lift one direction, to get down from the wall you use what is basically a luge (toboggan) set on a metal chute. You release the break and you fly down from the mountain on this crazy course - oh and make sure you lean into your turns so that you do not crash.
Since we got there so early, we had to wait about thirty minutes for the ice to melt off of the course so we would not crash (comforting thought). While we were waiting we chatted with a few locals - one guy found out that Tiffany and Kate were singers and he started singing songs for us.
"Oh that is a beautiful song" Tiffany would say after three or four minutes, and the singer would just hold up his hand in a gesture to Tiffany that said ' Hold on, I am not done with my song yet...' So we sat and listened, and waited, and listened, and then he started singing Celine Dion, then Michael Jackson, then back to some Chinese power ballads.
Finally the chute was free of ice so we could go down. I jumped on the luge and released the break and was off - it was really fun, I could go really fast. I was banking my turns like a pro. I do not know how far I went, but it took about ten minutes to get all the way down.
Once at the bottom I waited for the girls, they were like ten minutes behind me somehow. I thought they were riding the break the whole time. Turns out that after I jumped on the luge, the singer guy helped them onto their individual luge's and was not too sneaky about groping each of them in turn before pushing them off down the slide. That was really obnoxious to me - wait til the big American guy was out of the picture before molesting my friends, what a pervert. I liked that guy kind of when he was just an annoying singer, now however I want to go back up there and knock his last tooth out.
We jumped back in the car and joked with our driver as we took off home. My favorite and most successful joke that I can tell in Chinese goes like this. "I am not American and I do not speak English". It works the best, every Chinese person just about dies laughing. My continual successful results are giving me a false sense that I am funny. Maybe I will consider a stand up comic career here in China...
We stopped off two times, once to grab some food at a local restaurant and the second time to run some errand for the driver unbeknownst to us. I have learned that you just have to relax when traveling so it was not a big deal that the driver had secret detour plans - whatever man! Got back home and crashed for a good three or four hours before heading out to Wangfujing street - translates to the "Snack Street".
|before eating the tofu...|