Things to do before it’s too late
By Margaret Sheard
Although I live in North Cyprus, which is like a continuous holiday anyway, it is nice to think about some of the places which have an appeal. I have a friend who refers to her “Bucket List” which is things to try and achieve during your lifetime, and as we would say “before you kick the bucket!” I had a quite small list of things I would like to do and unfortunately I have only managed one of these. One of my ambitions was to travel along the Grand Canyon in a hot air balloon or perhaps helicopter, maybe still achievable. Another was a supersonic flight on Concorde, unfortunately not now possible. A visit to Machu Pichu but I think the altitude would give me problems now. A cruise along the Norwegian Fjords, maybe still on my list and other maybe not so ambitious dreams.
The one dream I did realise was a trip to China where I fulfilled my ambition to walk on the Great Wall of China. What a wonderful experience. I wrote an article for a local English newspaper a few years ago and thought it might be of interest for people to read of my experience on our website so I am reproducing the article below.
FULFILLING A DREAM
By Margaret Sheard
Having recently seen TV programmes about China, I recalled the time I had the opportunity of a lifetime to fulfil a dream of walking on the Great Wall of China, this had been an ambition I never thought I would achieve but some years ago when I was still living in the UK I saw an advertisement for a 5 day late offer holiday visiting some of the famous landmarks in and around Beijing at an exceptionally low price as the trip was due to take place in about 2 weeks’ time. I just could not ignore this so booked up and went. This was 25th to 30th March 1999, the weather was cold but every day was sunny so we were very lucky, in fact on one morning excursion there were icicles still on the shrubs and bushes.
We had a lovely Chinese courier who looked after us very well, she had an unpronounceable first name and asked us to call her Brenda, she wore a yellow parka and carried a yellow paddle which she held high so that we could identify her among the many tourists at all of the locations when we were able to wander around at our leisure.
Our time was split by mostly a half day at each of the tourist attractions which in some cases was not nearly enough but at least I was able to see some of these wonderful sights. There was a tour which incorporated the Sacred Way which led to the Ming Tombs, the Sacred Way was a long straight road flanked on each side by stone animals and figures which started small and got larger and larger as you progressed along the road. We also stopped off at a jade factory which had some superb items, way out of my budget but I did invest in a pair of jade earrings which I still have.
The Forbidden City was mind blowing and this was one place which needed a full day to see everything. It is so hard to imagine how life must have been back then, but it is a magnificent place. Just outside the Forbidden City is Tiananmen Square but unfortunately this had been screened off and we were not able to walk around this area. Supposedly, there was maintenance work going on but there were rumours that as it was around the 10th anniversary of the troubles there, maybe that was the reason, who knows.
Another landmark was the Temple of Heaven, what a beautiful building. I believe it has been rebuilt a few times, at least one occasion when it was struck by lightning and caught fire. The building is constructed without screws or nails and suchlike and really is a wonderful structure. I was very struck that the surrounding area was completely free of litter of any kind as was the case at most of the sites.
There was a trip to the Summer Palace with a boat trip on the lake, this was perhaps the coldest day but very enjoyable. We were scheduled to tour around the marble barge but unfortunately there was restoration work going on so this was not possible. The Summer Palace was built as a whim or folly by the Empress, obviously no expense spared. There was a very long covered walkway with a hand painted picture in the roof every few yards and I believe there were hundreds of them, depicting scenes of Chinese life, and every one was different. I wonder who painted these and how long it took to complete the walkway.
In many places there were moon gateways which I found fascinating and there was one such opening at a place we discovered when there was some free time. My friend and I decided to explore an old part which was still in existence despite cranes and high rise buildings taking over practically everywhere. We ambled along one such area where we found a baker kneading dough outside of his very small house with dust flying everywhere from the building work going on all around, most of the houses seemed very ramshackle but no doubt the inhabitants had always lived like this. On leaving the area and approaching the main thoroughfare we found an entrance to a building we had seen from the hotel which had a very high wall and looked extremely old. This turned out to be an Observatory and was such an interesting place with very old astronomy equipment. The thing that struck me most was that there was a very busy main road outside and yet in the Observatory it was so peaceful with birds singing and no traffic noise at all. I hope that this place hasn’t disappeared in the name of progress.
I have left the best ‘til last – we boarded the coach and were off to the Great Wall, this was quite a distance away so there was a chance to see a bit of the city, with people doing Tai Chi in the parks early in the morning and then the rural area going out of Beijing. We eventually continued along a road with high rocks each side and then suddenly a panoramic scene came into view, and there it was The Great Wall of China. I have to confess my emotions got the better of me and the tears started to flow, but what a sight it was. There was a choice of 2 routes to walk the Wall and we decided to take the longer, harder one. After a lot of huffing and puffing we reached the lookout post at the top and from there you could look out into Mongolia.. At the top I bought the usual tacky T-shirt bearing the words – I Climbed the Great Wall, which I still have and wear with pride. Then there was the long descent back down, a lot of steps and in one section the steps were almost perpendicular, almost like going down a ladder facing outwards. At one point, glancing over the side of the Wall, I was surprised to see a camel, I didn’t know there were camels in China but I think it was there in the event anyone wanted a camel ride along the outside of the Wall.
My only regret was that after travelling such a long distance I did not see another of the wonders of Ancient China – the Terracotta Warriors. Maybe one day I will be able to go to China again and if so I will be sure to include the Terracotta Warriors.
This was one of my dreams. I am so pleased that I was able to make this possible and it has been lovely to reminisce about this very short but memorable holiday.
Do any of our readers have similar dreams and ambitions they have achieved and would like to share. If you do then send us your story with some photographs.