A point comes in every extended travel when the time away and the simple stress of navigating daily tasks pushes a person to exhaustion. It doesn't matter whether the travel is one week, five weeks or five months -- it always happens. Travel is about pacing, and the toughest pace comes not at the very end, but near the end, when most of the journey is complete but the finish line isn't in sight. I've run four marathons, and miles 25 or 26 are never the toughest. It's miles 21, 22, 23 when my legs wobble, my head gets hazy and I wonder how I'm actually going to pull through.
But I do, and people do, and the journey continues, and that's how I found myself on a bus at 8 a.m., heading toward the Great Wall of China. Can't go to China and not see the Great Wall, right? So I scheduled a day trip to mutainyu, the second section of the Great Wall to be restored.
Pictures from the Great Wall: Mutainyu is also the second-most popular of the Great Wall sites, but it being November, the crowds weren't overwhelming. It's set up like a ski resort, with chair lifts to take you to the sections you want to see and lifts (or a tobaggan if you're feeling adventurous) to take you to the bottom.
The Great Wall, of course, was built to keep the barbarians out, and it was part of an intricate-for-its time defense network. You can still see the guard posts out in the distance, giving advance warning of enemy attack.
Within the wall are parapets for defense and numerous enclosed areas for living quarters and supplies. Cannon are mounted at key locations, the better to keep out Mongol hordes. Now children play on them, tourists take pictures, and guys like me wander up and down the steps, surveying the landscape.
And thinking about lots of things. One curse of writing for a living is the urge to continually turn everything into a narrative. Rather than just live in the moment, I find myself wondering, how can I express this moment in a way that will be illuminating to an audience, instantly turning emotion into product. I had about a half-dozen narrative possibilites in my head as I traversed the wall, but none of them made it here. The moment moved on, the expositions didn't expose much, the jokes didn't have enough punch in the punchlines. Sometimes I get too in my own head when I travel, especially when I'm traveling alone, and it's good not to get too caught up in the self-dramatization, which is tempting in such a dramatic setting.
So all I have to offer is a few sentences and some pictures, a few of the thousands taken in the same spots every day.
I mean, it's the Great Wall of China. What am I going to add to that?