Saturday, June 21, 2008

Finding great peace on the Great Wall

It’s early and the mountains are draped in a morning mist. The cable car takes us up and up until the Great Wall of China becomes visible and then disappears again in the distance.

We decided to visit the wall at Mutianyu, since it was recommended to us by our other colleagues as the more authentic part. At Bandaling the wall has apparently been reconstructed in places and tourists hoard this more popular part of the wall.

Mutianyu feels almost deserted this morning and I get the sense that the mist veils a thousand stories, ones that we will never know.

I take a deep breath, ah, there’s nothing like mountain air, before I climb the steep stairs to the top. Then, suddenly, I am there, walking on the only manmade structure that is visible from space. Lush green tumbles down into the valley below. The wall crawls out into the mist, mysteriously writhing into the distance.

When we stop walking it is so quiet that I can almost hear my own thoughts. A sense of nostalgia fills me, a longing to rediscover the peace and quiet I experienced as a child, a desire to live somewhere majestic, close to nature, once again…

“You can only make money in cities and without money you cannot look after yourself,” the voice in my head answers.

As we approach the next watchtower I stumble over the uneven stones and the smell of old urine breaks the spell. A tout tries to sell us some souvenirs. It’s time to go back down in order to keep this memory pure.

At the foot of the mountain there are more touts: “One dollar, only one dollar…,” but we manage to make our way to a taxi without too much harassment.

We drive past a host of cherry farms back into Beijing where the pollution in the air and the minds of the city people is as thick as the mist on the mountain.


Anonymous said...

Oh gosh, I totally relate to this... Sigh...



Patty said...

Well written article.