Huanghua Great Wall Ramblings

I got moving a little earlier today,almost got out of the hostel by 8:30. It's cold enough outside to see your breath in the morning - maybe a reason why I sleep in. I got to my new hostel/hotel and got a room for the next 3 nights. This place is in a much more central location, 2 long blocks to the subway or bus station to the Great Walls. And near a Pizza Hut in case that hankering kicks in. I have 3 rooms, a bathroom, a bedroom and a main room with a movable wall dealiebob that separates the couch area from the kitchen. Pretty snazzy. I mosied over to the bus station and asked a few people where to pick up the 916 bus to Huanghua. An hour or so later we arrived at some little town where it's necessary to take another bus or hire a taxi to get to the wall. A mini-bus driver came up to me and asked if I wanted a ride. I was thinking I didn't because the bus is 4 yuan and he wanted 80 yuan round trip. But he pointed at the time (1pm) and I realized that I only had like 4 hours of daylight left to see the wall. I had to find a bathroom first and he took me to one. (that sounds a bit strange.) I went in and saw there were no stall doors, just one door to the bathroom. He came in and went and then stood there. I looked at him and then at the stall and back to him. He smiled, nodded and left. Which was good, cos I wasn't about to use a doorless stall with someone in there. After that I went to his mini-bus and we drove out towards the wall. It was a neat 2 lane road that had trees arching over the roadway and people riding their bikes along. Most of the leaves had fallen and the land was just orangish yellow from the dust and sunlight. It looked a bit like how I'd think Sleepy Hollow would look like, minus all of the Chinese people carting around branches and charcoal. We rode through a few small villages that had neat old houses that were really short and rundown. They looked pretty cool. I wanted to stop and take some pictures, but I was running late and wanted to hit the wall instead. When we got to the wall my driver showed me a dinky little map and pointed out where we were. And then he pointed out some road on the map and motioned that he would meet me there. It took a bit of hand language to figure it out but he was going to wait down some road that I'd have to walk to from the wall. I was going to pay him when I got back to the bus station that goes to Beijing, so I figured he wasn't going to run off and leave me there. To get to the wall I went down some stairs, crossed a rickety cable bridge with scrappy looking wood slats and small cables for a guard rail. Very cool. Then I had to pay some guy 4 yuan to walk through his yard to the trail. As I went up the trail I heard some lady talking to two guys in front of me. I came up to her and she had a cardboard sign with "2 yuan" on it. And an axe on the ground. So I paid up. I got up on the wall and saw it went pretty much straight up. After passing two hawkers it seemed like clear sailing. At the first guard tower I heard plastic flapping and thought it'd be another 'toll.' It was another old lady, sqwaking and holding up her five fingers and a crappy piece of cardboard with writing on it. I paid the money. The two guys I had passed came in and they started arguing with her about paying the toll. They eventually got through without paying anything. Guess it pays to know Chinese. The wall stretched down the hill to the road and then back up another hill to go off in the distance. The side I was on went up the hill, down another, up another and then back down to the road I needed to walk out on. Beyond that it shot straight up a mountain and went out of sight. At first I was underwelmed by the wall, it was short, you had to pay to walk and it was all rebuilt so didn't feel that authentic. After going up further it started to feel more real and the walls got higher. I had passed the two guys and pretty much had the wall to myself. There were nice views of the distant mountain ranges where you could see other sections of the wall. It was pretty neat scrambling to go up the steep sections of the wall, each step was about knee high. When I got to the highest part of the section I plopped down my bag and hung out for a while. I thought I shouldn't rush things since this was the main reason for coming up to Beijing. The rest of the wall was almost straight down and I had to use the sides of the wall as handholds to get down. It would've been easier to have a rope and rappel, but I forgot that at home. When I got to the section of the wall that was crumbling I walked down a set of stairs to the dirt trail that lead down to the road. At the bottom of the hill there was a restaurant. I'm not sure how they would keep in business because it wasn't very cheery and your greeters were two mean dogs on chains. I kept eyeing them, expecting the chains to break. That and remembering that my phrase book had a line for "I don't eat dog." I wanted to try that out, but being in the middle of nowhere didn't seem like something that'd be funny to anyone else. The road out was very cool, it had stone sides and little orchards (I assume) everywhere. The sun was about to set so I hoofed it to the road. At the end was another restaurant and my mini-bus driver. I hopped in and we drove back to the town to pick up the bus to Beijing. I went to a McDonalds (for shame) to get fries to tide me over until I got back to Beijing. The traffic seemed heavy and it was an hour drive without any, so I thought it'd be best to have some food. The town was pretty neat looking at night, there were hardly any street lights and tons of cars, bikes and people running around. And everyone was on their horn, even the bikes were constantly ringing their little bells. Work was being done on a building across the street and the sparks from the welding fell down 10 stories. A few hours later I got back to Beijing and headed over to a restaurant across the street from my hotel. I ordered steamed pork buns and a tomato shrimp dish. What was strange was that I didn't finish both plates. The first night I was in Beijing I devoured two plates of food. Then last night I could barely finish my food and tonight I didn't get past 2 shrimpies. Not sure what's going on. Anyway, that's that and tomorrow I'm headed to the Dirt Market to buy doodads and crap for people back home. I mean, treasures, for people back home. And hopefully I'll find the massage place before heading out to the gymnastic thing.