Last weekend I headed up to The Great Wall for half a day. The Wall is about an hour from where I am living, but an easy drive out. We went to the Mutianyu section of The Wall.
Now, before heading up I was informed that we would ride a gondola up and a toboggan down. I was already a little apprehensive about the toboggan part of the whole scenario as 1) I assume you need snow in order to use a toboggan and 2) the idea of speeding down a mountain scares the daylights out of me. When someone says gondola, what comes to mind? If you are me it’s either the gondolas of Venice (Beijing is clearly not a floating city so that rules out the boat kind) or a cable car, much like the ones we rode up when we visited Mt. Pilates in Switzerland, what does not come to mind is a ski lift up a mountain side.
For those of you who know me well, you know that given any sort of situation where part of my body is exposed to the elements while being dragged in an upward fashion I begin to panic… like hardcore… heart beating, palms sweating, visions of plummeting to my death flashing through my head. This was no different. For the whole 5 minutes, yes it only took about 5 minutes to get up to The Wall, I was a nervous wreck, clutching my iphone for dear life, trying to use it to take pictures to take my mind off the fact that the inevitable snapping of the ski lift and drop to my death was not, in fact, moments away. Needless to say I made it to the top unscathed, half of the terrifying journey was over.
We walked about a quarter of a mile along the wall, which was amazing. Its still winter here, so there were very few people milling about. every few yards we were met with local vendors selling, soda, coffee and snickers (oh americans). We climbed up to the top of one of the towers that dot the wall, and had an amazing view in both directions. It’s definitely a place I would like to go back to and sit for an hour or so and write, perhaps in the Spring when everything is green and alive again.
After abut 45 minutes we decided to head back down. As we queued up for the Speed Chute, as they called it (this did little to quell my growing fears). We watched as a poor man along the track was clearly causing a traffic jam because he was going so slowly. I knew that in about 10 minutes this would be me, riding the brake all the way down so as not to injure or kill myself. The 3 men in front of us sped off in a blaze of glory. My fears mounting, I sat down on the toboggan, pulling back on the break so that I wouldn’t fly down the shoot to quickly. Finally the guard yelled behind me to push down on the lever (push to go, pull to brake), I took a breath, gathered my courage and pushed down on the lever… and nothing happened, I didn’t move. The man behind me was yelling and so I started to push myself along, one arm on the outer side of the silver track, the other pushing as hard as I could on the lever hoping that I would start moving faster. No such luck, as soon as I’d start to gather momentum, I’d hit a point in the track and come to a hault. This happened every few feet, until I got halfway down the track and the incline began to increase… I filmed my slow going adventure down the, ironically named, Speed Chute. I blame the toboggan.