Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Driving to the Wall

After a quick lunch, I found Driver's glossy tourist brochure and pointed to a picture of the Great Wall climbing up a mountainside

We drove back through central Shanhaiguan, then drove down a rural road past run-down farmhouses. At a big crossroad, Driver stopped the car and ran out with a water bottle to fill the radiator. I hope that the amount of money he overcharged me as I left town was enough for a down-payment on a newer car.

The road out of town would have been rough and unforgiving under the best of circumstances, but for whatever reason it was drilled full of regularly-spaced potholes. These were clearly intentionally drilled, but don't ask me why. If you can imagine a tiny little car that's falling apart to begin with, threatening to stall out if Driver slows down too much, with an oversized American loading down the rear of the car... it's a wonder either of us survived. Driver swerved around, trying to avoid impact, but what's the point? It was like a Vietnamese mine field.

After just a few kilometers, we emerged into a huge and dusty parking lot, nearly filled with cars, with people bustling around everywhere. Also, there was a camel. In case you want to have your kids get their pictures taken on the back of a camel, I know where to send them. By the way, this was indeed a real-live camel.

Driver led me to another ticket window, where there ensued a discussion as to how much I should pay. There was something for 90 RMB, and another package for 150 or so, and Driver was clearly urging me toward the more expensive. I ended up with the cheaper ticket, but I never did learn exactly what I had bought admission to.

It was just a smidge after noon, and driver and I managed to communicate that I was supposed to be back two hours later. I slung my pack over my shoulders and started walking.


  1. Don't leave us hanging! What happens next?! ...inquiring minds want to know. ..

  2. Wow! A real live Bactrian Camel!

    Absolutely great!