Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sunrise, The Love Kult, and The Sky Stairs

Last weekend we guided another trip to the wall. Baby Girl and i were the official guides, while therese and leigh helped out a ton. We had a family of five, including three teenagers, from Austin, and a couple in their 30's from Philly (go hawks!)... eleven total. We always seem to get lucky with adventurous and easy going guests.
Perhaps awesome people a just drawn to this kind of adventure. Still, this trip was for a few reasons my favorite so far.

We are normally the only group up at this section of the wall, and you'd be surprised to see anyone else. This time, we were visited by a group of photo taking Chinese tourists from Shandong. We saw them coming from a hour away and when they finally reached our tower, they flowed in through the narrow entrance like a swarm of bees exiting the hive. We were overrun in no time. Baby Girl, the gracious host, offered one lady a taste of our delicious pasta. When asked by a friend how it was, she simply grimaced and replied, "Bù hǎo". Not good. We smiled for their pictures and no doubt became the focus of many photo albums and stories... just as they were for us.

If that weren't enough excitement, at about 9pm, another massive group arrived and camped at base of the wall next to our tower. The group of around fifteen was in the middle of some teamwork building exercise or bonding ritual. They had hiked the entire trail that night linked hand in hand and blind folded. They hung a banner on the wall that proclaimed their love for the world, each other, and all things everywhere. In the morning, the group, lovingly nicknamed The Love Kult, blared The Rose on repeat for an hour from a little stereo. Of all the sounds i expected upon waking while camping on the wall, Bitte Midler singing "Love, it is a river..." is exceedingly low on that list.

So that was all obviously great (read: makes for a good story), but it was also the first time therese and i slept outside on the roof of the tower. Conditions were perfect, and we fell asleep looking at the stars and listening to the symphony of life in the forest below. The next morning we were treated to a breathtaking sunrise. The light rain from the night before had left mist in the valley below and clouds to enrich the sky. At 4:15 am, Eric says to me: "Kevin, you probably want to see this."

Us sleeping soundly and us moments before being woken up (pictures by Eric):

That was Eric. Under different circumstances, i may have feared for our lives, but he's actually quite harmless. Anyway, his words woke me up faster than when maze starts clawing at my face in bed. I went from deep sleep to dressed with camera in hand in mere seconds. Here's what i saw:

Those silhouettes are Eric and Michelle.

The sunday hike was extraordinary. We usually hike across the wall with our packs on, and go around a section called "The Eagle Flies Facing Upward". The Sky Stairs lead up to it, and they are aptly named; this 70-80 degree slope of rugged, narrow stairs rises to one of the highest points around. We don't take guests up there because it's just too dangerous. But today, Eric and i decided to stash our packs and cross it, meeting the rest of the group on the other side. It was my first time, and it was amazing. In parts, it was actually a pretty technical climb, but we had to climb it without ropes.

The first two pictures are from his camera. That experience capped off a pretty incredible weekend for me.



Anonymous said...

WOW!!!!! The photos are incredible! Especially the sunrise one and the misty valley photos. Great job Kevin. The Dad

Antea Pappalardo said...

Really love your photos!! Are great, compliments Kevin!! :)


Wong Ricky said...

Well done ! These are great pictures of the Great Wall! Which reminds me... I should go through my Inida pictures and post some. I log on to your blog on a regular basis. Having read this I thought it was rather informative. I appreciate you finding the time and energy to put this article together. I once again find myself personally spending a significant amount of time both reading and leaving comments. But so what, it was still worth it!

I also found a great blog of Jiankou travel tips, I'd love to share it here with you and for future travelers.