Monday 25th aug A blue sky day in Beijing
Another hotel breakfast where the huge assortment of food out on tables has me ending up at the table with the most bizarre selection of food, Russian bread, processed cheese, drinking yogurt and coffee are today's choices.
Today is special - we are going to the icon of China - the Great Wall.
Its a two hour bus ride to the mountain range and on the way we hear some statistics, the guides always talk in such huge numbers when they tell us anything about China. The wall is up to 21000 km long (depends who is counting) up to 1000000 people died building it. It was started 7th century BC and continued being built for hundreds of years. It may or may not be seen from the moon but in all cases it goes an impressively long way and built a very long time ago.
But for me it's simply a blue sky day and the day I would see one of the wonders of the world.
And so we did. Along with us a steady stream of people puffed and panted up the steep steps of the wall - some of the girls in fancy shoes and holding umbrellas, families dragging their small children, elderly people determinedly going step by step, each on our journey on this manmade structure which has been in existence for so long. We each got so far before turning back. John had a goal in mind and took iphone photos to prove he went the furtherest.
I got to turret 9 and stayed in the shade gazing out over the valleys and wild mountains to every horizon. Mongolia beyond the next range I'm told. A train winding up the valley. Several colourful pergodas dotting the mountains. The magnificent wall marching across the country up and down.
And people, admiring the view, photographing each other and talking, talking all the time.
My charms overcame some and I posed for various photos with young men and women like a movie star. (Not the middle-aged slightly over weight Aussie woman that I am) I did mention to one lad I had sons his age but it got lost in translation and i gave up trying to prove I wasn't whoever they wanted me to be. Besides I don't even know who I am myself sometimes!
Of course I had to gloat and document my status on social media. Another 'check in' that will never be repeated. And coincidentally email adventuring son Joel that I have got here first. haha!
Eventually we met in the coffee shop at the bottom, me wondering whether to buy the Tshirt (y'know the one that says "I climbed..." ) and rehydrating with various fluids after the effort.
Our tour allows for a certain number of meals and until now we have been taken to tourist-style Chinese restaurants. Our group is small and flexible to enough allow Ming to take us to restaurants in which the Chinese eat at. He chose a hot pot place so we all boiled our soups and discussed the ingredients options we were choosing from to create our personal broths.
With the promise of a free foot massage we were taken to a Chinese medical center and most bizarrely lined up in chairs in a conference room. A professor (of sorts) spoke on the benefits of herbal medicines whilst our feet soaked in tea coloured water before he introduced each couple to a specialist. I use the term specialist very loosely here. He held Johns wrist and with the measurement of the pulse and a few astute questions (interestingly on health issues a large number of the population suffer from, back pain, tinnitus etc) was able to determine that John was suffering from a terrible malady of imbalances. Which of course, for those who know John may agree with. But for a whopping $360 for these secret herbs we have decided to allow John to continue with his imbalances.
By now I am more dubious about the state of my health. This specialist turned his attention to me, "Are you numb in the legs" he says. "are you an unhappy person?" he continues. Well no, not until I got here. With all my answers in the negative he pronounces my circulation gone. I debate the issue with him, circulation issues are seen with colours, warmth, sensation etc and all mine are excellent. He turned his attention back to John enquiring whether cash or credit card would be able to fix his ailments before giving up and leaving us without a pleasantry.
Meanwhile our feet are massaged sweetly and soon after we happily made our exit.
A quick shop and Starbucks stop, before a Peking Duck meal was enjoyed between the groans of already complete fullness. A Kung Fu Show ended the day with a hour of entertainment, a group of men who showed their skills in kung fu and dance with music, special effects and lights telling the story of a boy becoming a Buddhist monk - which made me thankful again for the comparison to the amazing grace and mercy of my God.