Stories of a Kungfused Struggler

“Walk or bobsled to exit The Wall?” I laughed as the attendant punched my ticket. He waited for an answer, clearly annoyed I was holding up the line.

Culture Shock: The ultimate way to expand your horizons while learning a thing or two about yourself in the process. It is an indescribably uncomfortable feeling to find yourself in an environment where there is no one like you; an environment where nothing is recognizable, where you can’t speak the language. Day one, I struggled. A lot.

After a 30 hour trip and 12 hour time change, I arrived in Beijing for a much-needed power nap. My head barely touched the pillow before I was awoken by a loud banging at my door… at least I think it was my door… I wasn’t quite sure where I was to be honest. I peered through the eye hole, confused by what I saw. I could not understand why my friends were standing outside my room. I knew we were meeting at 9am, and I knew the clock read 9:15… but the dots weren’t connecting. I was off to a rocky start.

I insulted our driver with a few helpless cries as he navigated the heavy traffic, danced in the street as unknown biting bugs crawled down my shirt, sneezed my way through the cat cafe and spent a solid 10 minutes trying to withdraw money from the ATM. Heads up: the pin pads are reversed. While my behaviour fell slightly short of classy…I was dressed, caffeinated, and determined. Nothing would get in the way of our trip to The Great Wall of China.

Trip Advisor warned me to set low expectations. I read countless reports about the tourist trap being an overcrowded, over-priced and over-rated attraction. It was time for my luck to turn around. Thursday and Friday of the past week were statutory holidays, making this particular Sunday a working day in China. Normally I would question that logic, but was far too distracted by the realization that we basically had The Wall to ourselves.

Winding across the Chinese countryside while capturing over 2000 years history, centuries of defence, and unimaginable human sacrifice; The Great Wall of China stood before us. It was glorious; frozen in a perfectly imperfect state of disrepair. No attention was paid to the extreme heat or smoggy air as we attempted to explore every inch of stone that made up the more than 10 000 km long fortress.

Some experiences are accompanied by so much build up, that the actual event is an inevitable disappointment. Trekking The Wall was TOP of my bucket list; the build-up was unprecedented and the experience did not match the expectation. It surpassed it. It was clear no amount of time would have sufficed as the disappointment of the days end loomed.

We were presented with three options to reach the base: walk, cable car, or bobsled. Obviously, there was only one real option. While I love a good thrill, I am also the girl that screams with nervous anticipation on the way UP the roller coaster. With no instructions and limited visibility of the track, we climbed onto the individual metal sleds.

A UNESCO World Heritage site, World Wonder and “The Greatest Feat in Human History”. The Great Wall is beyond deserving of its many titles, including this one: Epic Thrill Ride. Pack your bags, make the trip, and when asked about your preferred exit method… keep a straight face while confidently responding with “Toboggan”. I dare you.