Monday, October 31, 2011

#15: Great Wall of China!

The Great Wall of China was officially the eighth of the 103 Things crossed off my list.  And I must say that it lives up to its name.  It was pretty great!

I was surprised at how high up the wall was.  It took a bit of a hike to get up one of the hills on which the wall sits.  I was all smiles at first:

But after a few more sets of these:

… I was exhausted.  Thirty minutes later, I got my first up-close glimpse of the wall.  Totally worth the hike.

You enter the wall through one of various archway entrances:

And then you’re on top and can really see the expanse of the wall.

The wall, in various sections and various states of repair, stretches 3,900 miles.  When taking into account trenches and natural features incorporated into the defensive barrier, the entire thing stretches 5,500 miles.  Try to get around that, Mongols!  To put that into perspective, that’s the same distance as driving from Miami to Los Angeles… and back.  Or swimming from Seattle to Honolulu… and back.  Or, for those of you who think in Australian terms, that’s like driving from Cairns to Brisbane… on to Sydney… across to Perth… and then up to Broome.

Fuck that’s long.

Despite its long length, the wall cannot be seen from space as it’s not nearly thick enough.  That myth was debunked by a Chinese astronaut a while back and the nation’s textbooks had to be changed.  Note that the wall twists and winds around a lot as you can see from the photos, so the actual distance from end to end if drawing a straight line isn’t as long.  But you know, they built it at 5,500 miles… much of it done before the year 0.  How crazy is that?

As the wall is on hills, walking along the Great Wall involves a great deal of steps up and steps down in between the various towers.

So we decided to take a few breaks here and there for some photo shoots!

Sometimes you just need to sit a spell…

Now, on to a very interesting fact.  Some of the wall is in its original form, while some has been repaired and restored.  Look closely and you’ll notice on some of the pictures that the grout between the bricks is often in two colours (this is best evidenced on the photo of me looking out from the wall – click to expand).  The gray grout – usually on the upper bricks – is the new grout used when repairing sections of the wall.  The white grout is the original glue and it has lasted 2,000 to 3,000 years.  Let’s play a game!  The game is called “Guess Which 4 Ingredients Combine to Make the Glue That Sticks the Great Wall Together!”  Need some help?  Here is a close up view of the thousands-year-old glue that the ancient Chinese used to build this structure:

I’ll let you ponder for a moment.  In the meantime, here’s another fun fact!  When the Mongols were coming, the first tower to see them would have to alert the next towers, and then like a phone tree, each tower would alert the next.  So, how did the first tower alert the next tower?  They alerted the next tower with…

A flaming sack of shit.

Oh that’s right!  The ancient Chinese would light wolf poop on fire and the smoke from the burning canine excrement would be quickly visible – even in the rain – and made for an excellent means of communication.  So that’s what we did before mobile phones!

Ok, back to the question at hand.  Can you guess which four ingredients make up the glue that holds the Great Wall of China together?  In no particular order, here we go:

1.  Sticky rice!
2.  Egg whites!
3.  Kiwi juice!
4.  Limestone powder!

Margaret Cho’s mother was right:  never underestimate the stickiness capabilities of sticky rice.

We had a few hours at the Great Wall, but alas, the adventure had to come to an end.  I spent the day with three lovely Wisconsin ladies that were on my tour:

… and we decided to take the toboggan down together.  You read that right:  there’s a toboggan down from the Great Wall of China!  There’s also a cable car, and of course those pesky staircases, but the toboggan was obviously the best choice.  Penny was super serious:

But Karla was stoked:

And then we were sent down the chute!

And of course, why buy a camera with video capabilities if you’re not going to use them.  The video itself isn’t anything special – but keep in mind we were tobogganing off the Great Wall of China!

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