Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Beijing - the Great Wall at Mutianyu
There were so many wonderful sights on this trip but I have to say the visit to the Great Wall was the most memorable for me. The cities were busy, noisy and over-crowded. Everywhere we went we were hassled by street sellers to the cries of 'one dollar, one dollar'. Our white faces would be spotted through the crowd and they would head for us like sharks targeting a passing shoal - we would have our sleeves tugged or they would block our path, it was a little disconcerting at first. Even when we were in rickshaws, the vendors would cycle alongside with their wares, it was relentless!
Up on the Great Wall, all that was a world away, it was like going back in time. I find that no matter how beautiful a place, if the atmosphere isn't right, it loses it's charm. One of my best memories is of a drive through the wadis of Oman and turning off the engine and hearing nothing but the breeze. Silence is the real luxury these days. Most tourists go to visit the section of the Great Wall at Badaling but thankfully we drove further out of Beijing to Munianyu and there were very few people there.
All I could hear when I drew this were some birds in the distance. I had decided to go up by cable car and spend more time enjoying the views while the boys walked up and saw a section of the wall further to the east.
The little outpost on the left is where I was standing. The drawing on the top of the post is where I sat later (the figure - tourists could pay to have their photos taken with him -was added when I got home) and again I was enjoying the peace and quiet when a couple of men came up the steps listening to some music on a radio! After they went by another couple came up, continually talking loudly the whole time and despite the fact there was no-one else around, stood a few feet from me to continue their animated conversation, oblivious to their surroundings. Is it just me? I'm beginning to suspect it is!
I moved away and took this photo of the same outpost, looking back. Somewhere over there in the distance were the boys but I couldn't see them. It was interesting looking at their photos later and to see different sections of the wall. As always, time was limited but I could have spent the day up there just walking and taking it in.
To the west side, this was the furthest I got - I didn't have the energy to walk up that steep slope!
Even on this quiet section of the Great Wall, there was no escaping the vendors - just to the right of this archway was a lady selling snacks.
The cable car only took a few minutes to reach the wall. Apparently Beijing hasn't had much rain this year and everything looked dry and brown but the magnolias were just bursting into flower and looked dramatic and beautiful in contrast.
I thought I must have misheard at first but the choice was to take the cable car up and back or walk up and take the chute back. Chute?! Yes, indeed, and here is the proof - Paul careering back down, camera in one hand, brake in the other!
Then back to face that long avenue of vendors yet again. One of them had shouted to me on the way up, when I was silly enough to let my eyes rest for two seconds on some strange foodstuff, "You come back, I'll remember you!" which sounded almost sinister but I soon realised it was just one of those memorized catchphrases. This was the view looking down
and the view looking back up.
I managed not to buy anything, not even this, undeniably a perfect souvenir of my visit to the "Great Wacl"!
Some notes: On the drawings- I've collected some bits and bobs (stamps, ticket stubs etc) to add to them later to fill up the blank spaces but I want to take my time to compose the pages so I'm posting 'as is' for now. I used Albrecht Durer watercolour pencils, Green & Stone and Winsor & Newton pads.
On the trip - this involves other people so I won't be writing in detail, only about my own experience. My energies have been quite low for a while and I felt very unwell throughout the trip. It was a wonderful trip but real life came along for the ride! The drawings lack a little sparkle but I feel pretty good for doing any at all and I see them as something to build on for the next time.