July 9, 2005

The Great Wall at Simatai

Today was one of the highlights of our trip so far! We went with the Paynes and the Lahsins to the Simatai section of the Great Wall.

The Simatai section of the Great Wall was rebuilt by General Qi Jiguang in 1567-70 -- it was originally built in 1368-89 -- to protect Beijing from Mongolian nomads.

We hired a driver to take us to Simatai and it was supposed to take about three hours each way. We knew we were in trouble when our driver pulled over to ask for directions fairly early in the trip! We seemed to take a scenic route and then got stopped at a bridge because both lanes had cars heading the same way and it was supposed to be a two-way bridge.

After finally getting across the bridge, driving for a little longer and making several more stops for directions, our driver realized we were going the wrong way. So, back we went . . . to the same bridge!

We're not sure what he said but he offered someone his pack of cigarettes and before we knew it, they let us through. One quick turn and we were on the right road.

Simatai is up in the mountains and is absolutely spectacular. This section of the wall has been left in tact and is very steep and uneven. The funniest thing was that as soon as we started to climb, "sherpas" started climbing with us.

They were local farmers who have figured out how to make a living off of the tourists at the Great Wall. They hiked up the wall with us, even stopping to fan us when the heat got to be too much.

Once we were coming back down they offered to sell us t-shirts, postcards and fans! Too funny.

The drive home was just as eventful as getting there was. It started pouring rain just as we were leaving the Wall. . . then it started to hail. Plus, driving in China is like something I've never seen before. The cars weave in and out of their lane and we often were passing a car that was passing a car . . . in the rain! And, if our driver couldn't pass on the left, he'd just pass on the right. But that's not all . . . also darting in between the cars are bicycles, carts and pedestrians! I finally just started closing my eyes.

This is the view from the Second Tower. We were standing up on top the Wall but also looking across to the Jinshanling section of the wall. Ileana, Regina and I stopped at this point but Chris, Joe and Eric kept going to the Fifth Tower.

Thanks so much to everyone who has e-mailed us or signed the Guest Book. We really appreciate it!

Tomorrow we fly to Guangzhou and we get the girls on Monday! (I have butterflies in my stomach just typing that!)

The photo below is of the six of us before we climbed . . .

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