Today I had a picnic on The Great Wall of China.
There are bucket list items you want to check off. There are paths you want to travel. There’s that memory, that picture you want to have. And then, there’s a wall you can see from outer space.
The day began by sitting in the side car of a 1940s motorcycle weaving in and out of traffic lanes (which are mere suggestions in China), dodging cars and pedestrians, running red lights, driving off into the Beijing countryside on our way to one of the greatest wonders of the world.
We parked the bikes behind a couple of shanty houses – who knows where – and began our illegal climb up a footpath to a section of The Great Wall closed to the public.
It’s easy to see why. Decaying stairs and archways, no side walls and not another person in sight.
The climb was steep and difficult; not for the faint of heart. I was sweating. My heart was pounding in my chest. My legs ached. My calves cried for mercy. But for the view atop this particular mountain range, I would have hiked the full day.
For as far as the eye could see, this crazy snake of a wall slithered up, over and between mountains in both directions. The sheer fact it was created is mind boggling. I could barely climb it, let alone carry the boulders that made it or dream up the path it took. It was an insane idea. It is a phenomenal beauty.
We sat upon the ruins of this 1800 year old structure, ate sandwiches, drank wine, shared stories, waved at astronauts and were in awe. A surreal experience.
Indeed, words fail to adequately describe this day.
To travel is a great privilege. To visit the Great Wall is an amazing feat. To have a piece of it all to yourself is truly a unique life experience.
Such moments in time must be sought out with an open mind and a warrior’s spirit. But once lived, remain with you forever.