Dr. ToughLove; or, how I learned to stop tiring and love the climb

A few days ago, our second day in Beijing, the day opened brightly. A scenic bus ride led us past a halfway finished Disney-style castle and into the outskirts, the foothills of China. Soon the hills became mountains, green mountains, covered in trees. They gradually rose into the sky until (after I had a nap) the bus was wholly surrounded. This was the location of the steepest section of the Great Wall, a perfect location for an early morning – jog? Yes, soon after arriving, Mr. Ficke (a chaperon with a moustache and the ‘e’ pronounced like a long e) asked me if I would like to instruct the others in a Manly Mongolian Laugh (since the Wall borders China and Mongolia). I acceded to the request and duly learned (more later).

After instructing the group, the trek began. Mr. Ficke had already asked if I was interested in making a dash for the summit; when we left, we (along with Alejandro and Joseph) began the climb with a jog up to the first guard station (in the 80 or 90 degree heat, no less). With no respite, we continued up and up the steps (if you have an image of long stretches of flat wall, you are sadly mistaken. Not only is the Wall predominately stairs, but they are also about a foot high each and uneven, worn with the feet of time.)

After four guard stations, we finally took a brief break in a dim shop. Legs burning, we began again, climbing and climbing. Now I might add now that the view, even from the onset, was superb. The entire mountain region was visible, as well as the outskirts and (I’m told) Beijing. After only 20 minutes, we had made it up the entire Wall to the summit of the mountain, the first YOSA group to do so. At the peak, we happened upon another French couple, as well as a Kenyan and a group that looked suspiciously Argentinean. About staying at the peak for half and hour, the climb down began. This time, for the sake of you, my dear readers, I diligently counted the steps. At the last station before the peak, there was a type of Last Chance shop, where I bought a pointed Chinese peasant hat, bringing the salesperson down from 150 yuan to 80. Soon afterward, we were directed by a guard down an alternate path (which threw off my stair count) on the Mongolian side. It turned out to be a genuine mountain path, winding, rocky and dangerous. It was, however, faster than the ascent, and, upon reaching our starting point, I had a final count of about 3,152 steps. I estimate that the actual step count is closer to 5,000, due to the short distances between steps on the Wall itself.

After meeting a man from Israel who consulted me on the location of the Mongolian and Chinese sides of the Wall, we departed once more into the streets of Beijing.

Ciao…

Michael Vybiral

YOSA in front of Great Wall of China

To read more about YOSA’s Great Tour of China, you can follow TPR Radio Host John Clare’s blog: http://kpac883.blogspot.com/

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