THE GREAT (crowded, cloudy, smoggy, and slightly smelly) WALL OF CHINA

So maybe my title doesn’t give the Great Wall as much credit as it deserves.  We (and by “we” I mean Kevin our communist tour guide)  just picked a really crummy day to scratch “Climb the Great Wall”  off my bucket list.  Nevertheless, it still proved to be breathtaking amidst all the congestion.

Located a mere 20 miles from our hotel in the heart of Beijing, it took us a whopping hour and a half to finally arrive at the Wall.  All those horrible things you have probably heard about the traffic in Beijing… yeah, you should definitely believe every word. 
(Notice that people are actually outside of their cars taking a smoke break…)
Did you know (here we go…) that the Great Wall took 2,000 years to build?  And, once it was finished, assuming Kevin did his conversions correctly, it stretched for 31,250 miles?  Due to erosion, city expansion, and other disappointing facts of life, it now only stretches for 4,000 miles.  
 There are five entrances to the Great Wall and we entered at Badaling.  Once we bought our tickets (yes, I was surprised that tickets are required, too) we found ourselves standing at a little fork in the road.  Kevin informed us that if we chose to go to the right, we would encounter a shallower, more crowded trek.  But to the left we would find ourselves on a steeper, yet less populated path.  At this point, that wonderfully inspirational quote instructing one to take the path less traveled was of no help in making this tricky decision…  Both directions looked equally as crowded, but of course we opted for the supposed less people, so we ventured off to the left on the steeper path.  Let’s just say that Kevin also neglected to really expand upon how steep the left side was.  Not that I would have gone to the right anyway, but seriously.  You’ll see what I’m talking about soon enough. 
My friend Sam and I hiked as far as the Chinese government would let us.  I would guess (and I’m usually a very bad guesser) that we hiked about 1 1/2 miles?   It was after that guesstimated distance that we found a bit of Great Wall reconstruction going on, therefore the path was blocked off.  Although the area was barricaded, the below photo gives a good look at the seriousness of the left side’s steepness!  We also found that the further we hiked, the less crowded it was–which made for my favorite pictures.
I also felt captivated by the abounding amount of cultures that I was immersed in.  To be honest, that may have been my favorite part!  Everywhere I looked there were people speaking unheard of languages.  I talked to people from South America, Asia, Europe, and North America.  Sam and I failed horribly at attempting to take jumping pictures.  Finding horrid humor at our expense, some Lithuanian guys insisted on showing us how it was done.  And they succeeded on the first attempt.  Clearly, they have a lot of free time in Lithuania…
 I really could have just stood and snapped pictures all day long, but I suppose two hours is a good amount of time to spend at the Wall.  
The long hike back to base camp really seemed to be the more treacherous.  By this time, I was exhausted and my legs were shaking pathetically, making it extremely challenging to make it back without collapsing.  Check out that descent!   
I guess what I’m trying to say is that the Great Wall was pretty fabulous and I am so thankful I had the opportunity to knock it off my bucket list!  I would definitely love to see it in the fall and winter though.  There are also cable cars you can take to get a great ariel view and some points have slides that you can take back down the mountain… I have to do all of those things.  Listen at me sounding all haughty now… but really, I can’t wait to return someday!