Yesterday we hiked for two and a half hours along a small and treacherous trail to reach one of the unrestored sections of the great wall near XiZhaZi in JianKou. We arrived as the sun was on the verge of setting. The walk had taken longer than we expected so we were relived to arrive with light. We bought iced tea from one of the local old ladies that hiked up there every day and set up shop in an abandoned watch tower. Several Chinese university students were there as well preparing to camp the night. We hiked along the wall for almost an hour as dusk settled, turning to watch the sun disappear over the mountains behind us. We reached one of the highest watch tower ruins in the last of the light and layed out our mat and sleeping bags. We sat inside them and ate the boxes of strawberries we had lugged with us while staring at the lights of the towns in the valley below.
We slept on and off through the night. The wind grew in strength through the night and howled and shook the shrubby trees growing through the broken bricks. It was a little cold, not too cold for me but my girlfriend could only sleep after we joined the sleeping bags together and I could wrap myself around her.
In the morning I walked around the watchtower, peering out over the mountains and taking photos of my sleeping girlfriend. When she emerged from her cocoon we breakfasted on cold sausages and bread then packed up to continue walking. The next section of the wall was a very steep downward slope and the stones were all slippery. We were moving slowly and talking. My girlfriend was telling me about some of the tourists she had seen at the wall during her last visit. She was telling me about an Italian women who had walked the wall wearing enormous high heels, ‘like this’ she exclaimed. I turned to look, and in that moment I lost my footing. I began chasing my own center of gravity, trying to find my footing. I gathered speed and spun toward the wall. I reached out and grabbed the stone wall, but my own momentum tore me away. My girlfriend was screaming as I spun back toward the center of the path. Seeing a pile of gravel and a shrub approaching, I slid onto my side and grabbed the bush with one hand, bringing myself to a stop. I had ripped a great deal of skin off one of my hands, I stood up and examined the streams of red blood that were now dripping onto this ancient wall.
It all just confirmed an ancient piece of masculine folklore that I had somehow forgotten: when your girlfriend starts talking about shoes, don’t listen.