Published: August 6th 2007April 12th 2007
The Secret Wall
I guess it's not much of a secret anymore...
The problem with travel these days is that so many people have already been there before, which in turn ruins all your cool stories of (mis)adventures abroad. Therefore, the idea is to try and do something different, something unique, so you have something to brag about when you get back home. The problem with that is now everyone is trying to do something original. So you might as well stay home and watch TV, right?
No! What you're supposed to do is go see all the regular stuff, then make up cool stories about crazy shit that happened when you were away. Or, in our case, just sit back and wait for the events to unfold. Denise and I are blessed with having unusual experiences while we travel and are never short of quirky tales from the road.
When in China almost everyone makes a trip to one of the several sections of the Great Wall that are accessible from Beijing. We had made a stop at the heavily touristed 'Badaling' section, but were looking for a less crowded excursion. The solution: our hostel was offering day trips to the 'Secret Wall
', a stretch off the beaten path without
In serious need of some TLC.
a massive parking lot, cable car ride to the top, or sled run to the bottom.
The cool thing about the Great Wall is that they're always discovering new sections every few years. Crumbling away in the mountains or forest, vast lengths can go undetected for ages. The local villagers know about it, but it never occurs to them that they're the only ones that know about this particular section. Only a few years ago, an 80km section was found deep in the mountains. Who knows how much more there is hidden beneath the trees.
Oh, and to dispel any falsehoods, you can't
see the Great Wall from Space. It's just physically not big enough. Sure it's long, but it's too skinny to detect. And if you don't believe me, then ask why you can't see the Trans-Canada Highway, which is longer (by about 1500km) and wider. I'm right, don't argue.
So anyway, we signed up for the Secret Wall day trip, and were excited at the opportunity to march along an unrestored section of the Wall and contribute to its eventual demise. I guess that's the trade-off, authenticity has a price. We were also excited because
This is the spot where the German guy fell off the Wall. He was lucky to escape serious injury.
we wouldn't be pestered by hawkers wanting us to buy Mao watches and ugly t-shirts with slogans like
I got loved long time on the Great Wall
or other such nonsense. Coincidentally, Denise has mad bargaining skillz, yo! She can get the price cut to a tenth without breaking stride.
The day started out rainy and blah, with a two-hour long drive through the mountains and pot-holed country roads to arrive at a sleepy village. A short hike through the trees eventually brought us to a clearing along a ridge, and there it was. Old and decrepit and slowly being overtaken by trees and shrubs, the mighty Great Wall was returning to the Earth from whence it came.
Overcast but clear, we enjoyed stunning views of the surrounding valleys, and could see the Wall snake its way off into the distance. The hike wasn't too strenuous, despite what some people said in the comment book, and our guide, an 80 year-old man, was more than happy to make frequent stops along the way for photo ops and just soaking it all up. The views were spectacular and the experience was outstanding, it was worth every penny and one of our favourite travel days ever.
As the hike
Those little notches you see are for defensive purposes to keep out the Mongols and other such nasty bastards.
was coming to an end, Denise and I decided to fall behind slightly so we could take a few pictures of us without tourists, obnoxious signage and amusement rides in the background. Just as we were to pose, we happened to glance ahead at the group and noticed the older German fellow lose his footing. Problem was the he fell to his left, not back, and was now in the precarious situation of cartwheeling off the Wall, and potentially hundreds of feet down the side of a very steep hill.
With his daughter standing there screaming, everyone just watched in awe as this man bailed sideways off the Great Wall of China (just so you know, there was nothing anyone could do to help with out putting themselves in as much danger). Miraculously, once airborne he flattened out and came down directly on a bush. He lay there for a second (probably to finish shitting his pants) then slowly got up and dusted himself off. His hands were scratched up pretty badly and he was shaking terribly, but he avoided smacking his head on the many bricks that lay at the base and wasn’t hurt at all. Denise, in
Mind your step.
all her wisdom, packed some bandages and antiseptic wipes (in the off chance I
did something stupid) and helped clean his wounds.
It was the most unbelievable thing, watching this man tumble off the Wall. He was a very nice man too, so it’s not like it was even remotely funny or deserved. We were 50ft away and all we could do was watch this man potentially fall to his death. After this, the group went very quiet and the pace slowed a little. We arrived back at the village without further incident and sat down to a delicious feast prepared by the locals. The German guy had a beer to calm his nerves and played down the severity of what happened. His daughter, tears still on her cheeks, was shaken but happy Dad was OK.
Once we got back to the hostel we didn't see the German guy again. We sincerely hope he's OK and didn't suffer any hidden injuries. And thanks to him, everyone now has a story to tell about the day they hiked the Secret Wall. We've seen some crazy things during our travels, but this is something we'll never forget.
The Wall's path is such that it offers extensive views of the surrounding area.
swear everything I've said here today is true. You can't make this stuff up. Camille & Denise
There are more photos below