Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Other Great Wall


Unlike the great firewall which blocked us from posting on the blog, this was one big heckuva barrier that we WERE looking forward to. So after sleeping in and lazing about, we set off rather late in the day to catch a public bus as far as we could, then haggle a taxi driver to take us the rest of the way in his poor excuse for a minivan to Simatai. After putt-putting pitifully uphill a few kilometres, a tyre popped and we stopped to flag down another van for a spare tyre. To our relief, we arrived one hour before closing time at the great wall.

We had heard that Simatai was less touristy than other great wall sites. Despite this, we caught a cablecar two thirds of the way up a mountain and walked up a 70 degree incline to the top to find a tourist tout trying to flog us souvenirs at over inflated prices!

The view from the top was nothing short of spectacular. The wall and its towers, crumbling away in sections, look down on sheer mountains and deep ravines which stretch away until the mist in the distance hides them from the view. Situated high on the ridge, they made for a formidable defensive outpost refuting the old rumor that the wall was built “to keep the Chinese in rather than the Mongols out” - although it isn't tall, I sure wouldn't want to be scaling the wall after a tough mountain climb, not to mention the inner walls and traps laid by the enemy atop its battlements.

We posed for some photos, stopped at the snack bar half way down and returned at sunset to base camp to find the very last taxi driver who had added a late-in-the-day-and-I-wanna-go-home tax to his usual fee. A local woman strolled up to the car to undercut the driver with an offer for accomodation in her farmhouse (for two euros each!). So we accepted, ate a huge meal and collapsed exhausted in her little brick house amongst corn fields.
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