Today, M and I hiked along the Great Wall. We hired the same driver several other conventioneers had found, and he dropped us off at Jinshanling, driving to Simatai to wait for us there. We walked and clambered and climbed the Wall for about 14 kilometers, past or through about 35 beacon towers (spaced, apparently, such that no space in between was out of bow range). The Wall was crumbled in places, and breath-takingly steep in others… but that didn’t stop the hordes of locals who greeted us regularly along the way with trinkets, postcards, t-shirts, and drinks; clustered in twos and threes, they cajoled and even followed us. They had a network of secret paths they used to get to and between towers, and they seemed to work together to some extent (“Coke? Beer? Postcard? You buy later…”). We did buy a few things (normally water), more out of sympathy and admiration than need. China is amazingly, aggressively capitalist. The invaders of ages past now make their living from the Wall itself.
The Great Wall itself is impressive, snaking (or rather, dragon-ing) across the mountains, clawing up and down the foothills. While not as old as I had thought (this section was built between 18 and 33 generations ago), it was nonetheless an impressive sight.