The second part of my story from China includes the completion of one of my lifelong dreams – visiting the Great Wall of China.
One of the tours in my trip that I purchased included a trek to the Great Wall. In case you’ve been living in a cave, on Mars, with your hands in your ears humming a tune… the Great Wall of China is a 6000-km wall that the Chinese have built over the past few centuries that was used to keep invaders out (namely, the Mongolians who kept dropping sweet-and-sour pork on the Chinese). The Great Wall is now a tourist attraction. Much of the Wall is in a state of disrepair so the Chinese have restored it. There’s now about a 4 or 5 km section that you can along and view the Wall.
Secondly, the Wall is not flat along the top. You have to climb up a hill in order to get it, and it’s no small hill. The Wall rides along the top and it’s 500 steps to get there. It takes a while but for people in excellent physical condition (like me) it was no sweat. Actually, I did sweat because it was a very warm day that day, around +24 C (77 F). Upon getting to the top, we took a left turn and started marching along the Wall. As I said earlier, the top is not perfectly flat. The Wall winds left and right and meanders up and down. There are stairs everywhere and some of them are quite steep.
Myself and one of my friends from the tour reached the top after the 500-step trek and took off. I turned behind me and didn’t see anything suspicious. We marched forward and kept walking, kept walking. We stopped to take some pictures (of which I can post none because I lost my camera a couple of days later). We past some vendors along the way who were selling cold drinks. I normally don’t buy stuff from them but it was a hot day, I was sweating so I bought a bottle of water for $1.
It was at this point I noticed something out of the ordinary. I stopped to open up my bottle of water and took a big swig. As I was doing so I turned around to see how far we came. I saw off in the distance, perhaps 200 feet, that somebody ducked out of the way behind one of the pillars as if they were dodging my glance. "That’s odd," I thought. My highly-trained Jedi senses told me that this was not some normal walk behind a pillar, this person moved too erratically for it to be a normal movement. While I thought it was suspicious, I also didn’t have the presence of mind to check it out. After all, I’m just Joe the Plumber. Why would anyone be following me? Besides, maybe I’m being too paranoid.
Myself and my friend continued to walk along the Great Wall. We chatted, sweltered in the heat and continued climbing. We came to a crossroads and it looked like we had a long ways to go. "What time is it?" my friend asked.
"About 1 pm."
"What time do we need to return?"
"About 2 pm. We have enough to climb that huge part of the Wall and get back, I think. I have plenty of water." Once again, I turned around to glance how far we had come. And one again, off in the distance, I saw someone duck out of my view. It took them a couple of seconds to get out of sight, but at this point I was very sure we were being followed.
We went and climbed up to the top of the high section. That was a lot of work. We ended up with a system – take 100 steps and then rest. That worked well for us, but when we reached the top, it felt great. It wasn’t quite the top, but it was as far as we could go because the next section was cordoned off. The top of the section was still undergoing restoration so there were plenty of tools everywhere, plenty of rocks and dust and a couple of pails of garbage.
Myself and my friend relaxed for a bit, enjoying the view. We had gone as far as we could along the Great Wall. Little did I know that in a few minutes I would have a confrontation that would change the entire nature of my trip.