Today started off slow. Everyone needed to get cash and there were two methods of doing this; get money from the ATM or go into the bank. If you went into the bank, you had to have your passport and US dollars with you to exchange. Then you had to fill out a bunch of paperwork and yada yada yada, it sounded like a massive headache. The ATM is in theory much easier. That is unless you don’t know your PIN number. I tried the PIN that I remembered but it turns out that I had been trying the PIN for a different card, brilliant right? After a few different attempts at some other PINs and a phone call home, I finally was able to get cash from the ATM. At least I wasn’t the only one who had some trouble.
After the great cash adventure, the group boarded the bus headed for The Great Wall. On the bus, we met our tour guide, Joe. Joe gave us a forty-minute history lesson blended with plenty of standup comedy. It made for a great bus ride.
Before arriving at the Great Wall, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant at the bottom of the mountain. Compared to dinner the previous night the dishes seemed more familiar. There were sweet and sour pork, a chicken and a beef dish that were similar to American Chinese food (dare I say General Tso’s chicken and Orange beef?! Not exactly). It turned out this would be much-needed fuel for the hike up the Great Wall.
At the Great Wall, you first have to walk through a row of stores and restaurants before getting on a shuttle to go up to the entrance to the Wall. There are two options how to get to the top of the wall, take a chairlift or take the stairs. There is a saying that you are not a true man until you climb to the top of the Great Wall. And of course, that meant I would take the challenge and walk up the stairs. I can’t say that it was the wrong decision but that was a lot of stairs (trying to go up two stairs at a time was a bad decision though). The top of the Wall even had stairs between the guard houses. Once I caught my breath I could not believe some of the terrain the wall went over. Some places looked as if the wall was on a cliff. Some sections of the walk were more like rock climbing than actually walking. I went with a group that walked as far as we were allowed. We went through multiple guard houses and at the end of the open section, the guard house was much larger than the others.
After walking along the wall, we thankfully didn’t have to walk down. Instead, we rode carts down a luge-like track. The track turned into bumper cars around every turn. I could not stop laughing because everyone was yelling at each other and some people didn’t know how the cart was supposed to work.
For dinner, we were on our own and ordering was quite an adventure but, in the end, we got the food we wanted. After dinner, I and some others went for an almost five-mile walk to again explore some different parts of the city.