Thursday, April 18, 2024

CAROL MARTINDALE TOURS CHINA: Breathless climb up the Great Wall


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The Nation’s SUNDAY SUN Editor Carol Martindale recently visited China as part of a media delegation from Latin America and the Caribbean.At the invitation of the State Council Information Office the group toured a number of provinces across China, as well as the capital Beijing and Shanghai, where the World Expo is currently going on. During the coming weeks, she will be reporting on the sites, scenes, the culture and cuisine of China.
Climbing the Great Wall of China will leave you breathless.Literally!At first glimpse, the imposing view of the Great Wall as it sits in silent splendour snaking across the mountains of northern China, captivates you, drawing you in, taking your breath away. You don’t dare blink in case you miss being part of China’s history – a site so revered by the millions of tourists who visit. After all, the Great Wall is listed as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.The Great Wall, which is also listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, is a true marvel and testament to the long history of Chinese civilisation. People travel from all over the world to walk the Great Wall, 73 kilometres from Beijing, even if it is only to take a few steps.The Wall runs across a variety of terrains like mountains, plateaus and deserts. It even traverses rivers.Climbing the Great Wall is certainly not for the faint-hearted or the unfit, as the media group from Latin America and the Caribbean quickly realised. Any initial thoughts that climbing these steep steps would be a breeze were quickly thrown to the cool, welcoming winds.At the bottom, we glanced around as far as our eyes could take us, confident and ready to take up the challenge. We were ready! We set off at 10 a.m. that sunny Sunday on May 30 along with the thousands of others climbing this wonder wall.A rusty handrail quickly became a friendly support for many as they gripped it every step they took. We climbed the steep steps, most of which were uneven. With every step and glance upwards to see how much farther, there was a sense of determination despite the gasps for breath and exhaustion. “I can do this. I am climbing the Great Wall of China. If others have done this, so can I.” Then there was a surge of energy to keep going.Others were just as determined. Some stopped to catch their breath between steps, while others had to sit and be fanned by relatives. One elderly man was given some type of “smelling salts” to give him a boost and go again.All ethnicities, the old, young, adventurous, fit and unfit filed up and down the Great Wall. Approximately half an hour later we reached the second tower, where we gulped water and rested. It was also a time to take pictures, documenting that we made it to the “top”. There was a sense of achievement.Then the reality set in that we needed to make it back down, which proved to be equally challenging. Again, with the help of the handrail, this time on the right side, we made it down in single file – an equally gruelling walk. Some gripped the rail so tightly that rust remained on their hands.By 11 a.m. the media group made it back down. We looked at the steep steps of the Great Wall with a sense of accomplishment.After all, there is a saying in China: you are only a man/woman after you have walked the Great Wall.
See Photo Gallery for more pictures.
• Next week: We are off to the Forbidden City.


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