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Tiffany's Adventures in China

From Wall to Wall

Saturday, August 8, 2009

It's 4:00 in the afternoon here in Chengde, China, and it is pretty hot outside. Luckily, by setting out to the Imperial Summer Resort around nine in the morning, we avoided the hottest part of the day; that really helped when we hiked the Mini Great Wall, which initially didn't seem to be as arduous as the real Great Wall.

But as for the real Great Wall, which we literally climbed just yesterday, I shall relate. We started out at six-thirty in the morning and our first obstacle was a giant (and relatively steep) hill that had lots of very sheer rocks to scale up. At the top lay a beacon tower that didn't seem to be totally renovated, which gave it an even more ancient sort of atmosphere (especially since it had been built starting in the fourteenth century). Then we set out on our ten-kilometer hike, which was really intense. We made our way through dense brush (which made being short pretty handy), cornfields (which we got lost in and had to backtrack through), and even steep steps on the wall's sinuous course (which made my height a disadvantage when climbing those stairs). Still, it was a challenge, and I most definitely enjoy challenges, even when it means being bitten by insects multiple times on the same leg and scratching my arms when trying to make my way through the forest adjacent to the Great Wall. There were some very narrow parts with 30-foot drops in some places and loose bricks on some staircases, but the fatigue and exhaustion were all worth it just to say "I really climbed the Great Wall of China.". Imagine that. An ancient, centuries-old wall, yet my buddies and I went along a six-mile stretch of it. Though the going was rough sometimes, none could say anything terrible about the Great Wall but instead would have to respect its sheer beauty and majesty. As I hiked, it was easy to imagine people running to and fro, sending messages from tower to tower back then. (That must have been pretty tiring if so.)

At the end of our adventure, we all had the opportunity to sign a banner that said, "One is not a hero until he climbs the Great Wall." And I, for one, can now say that I have done so.

Today, at the Summer Resort there was a so-called "Mini Great Wall" of China. After the REAL Great Wall we didn't expect this trek to be too difficult; on the contrary, it was actually pretty strenuous due to the lack of steps on most of the uphill sections and the soreness that remained from yesterday's journey. Going downhill was still perilous in some places, but uphill parts were the worst. Tiring, yes, but not terrible. There were some AMAZING views from the peaks of the hills on the Mini Great Wall (see second picture).

All in all, it was a great day exploring the Summer Resort in Chengde. I enjoyed comparing the Mini Great Wall to the actual (and still more tiring but more majestic) Great Wall with some new friends. The last week has been one of the most memorable in all my 16+ years of life and I am still amazed that I have been able to experience these adventures.

And we still have another week to go. :). I am extremely excited for this.

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Martha said...

Wow! What a fantastic opportunity on the Wall! I haven't been able to find how to look at the pictures yet but I am sure I will find them soon. My eyes have been opened lately as to how huge the wall was - not just a "wall" as we think of it but so wide. I am sure you are right about the men running messages being tired! Can you imagine? Your excitement is coming through in your writing. Thanks for letting us in on your journey!

Karen Wells said...

Your legs must feel as if they are going to fall off or maybe they are just too numb to feel anything. I didn't really think that China would consist of that much physical activity. Did you? Karen Wells DSA South Africa

Changing Connections said...

Whenever you can surmount fatigue, exhaustion, and 30 foot drops threatening and you get over the fear factor, you ARE a hero. You are certainly my hero. I like that you put yourself back into the history of the Wall's early use, running from tower to tower with messages. Today we think of the Wall as a tourist, but you remembered its true purpose: a military fortification. You do a great job of describing the experience.

RJ Stangherlin
PA DEN Leadership Council Blog Coordinator

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Essential Programs Details

Duration 15 days
When August 4th - 18th, 2009
Focus History/Culture
Martial Arts
Modern/Ancient Architecture