July 22, 2010
For my birthday we arranged for transportation so Bobby, Alisa, and I can camp on a “wild wall”, one of the sections of the Great Wall of China that is not restored. We spent the morning putting together our packs so that we had just enough for the night and nothing more since we had to carry it all up. We wanted to be sure that our packs were as light as possible.
It only took about two hours to reach the wild wall and I slept most of the way. When we arrived at the site, we strapped on our packs and started up the trail leading us to the wall. On our first visit to China together, Bobby and I went to the Great Wall at Simitai, which is known for being very steep. This section was not nearly as severe in its angles but the climb was arduous due to the weather. It was well over 35 degrees Celsius, full humid and the smog was so thick that we could barely see the next section of the wall in front of us. The smog was what really got me. It made it difficult to breathe and I was pretty dizzy and dry heaving. What a difference the weather and air quality makes. Just last week we climbed far more steep steps very easily going up to the Soviet Monument in Ulaanbataar.
We got up to the platform where we planned to spend the night and set up our little camp. We ate our sandwiches for dinner and passed time playing cards and listening to music on my ipod. At first Bobby slept outside the tent in the open air and Alisa and I were inside. He gave up after a few hours when all of the mosquitoes started attacking him. Bobby set the alarm on our telephone to go off at 4:45 so we could watch the sunrise.
Before the alarm even went off, I awoke to a rattling sound and screaming. Our whole tent was shaking and hearing all the screaming. I sprang up looking from Bobby to Alisa in between bursts of shrieking to try to understand what is happening. Bobby bolted out of the tent and I immediately followed. It took a second to get out since half of the tent had collapsed. I still didn’t know what was happening, I just started following Bobby as he was running down the wall. I had a scarf that was tied around my waist since it was so hot but that fell off at one point so I was running down the wall barefoot and with no pants on after this mysterious thing. When Bobby started shouting “PASSPORTS”, it finally hit me that our bags were stolen. I was still running, my bare feet were burning from the impact with the ancient stones. I then recalled that our passports were safely locked in our bags at the hostel.
I then began to shout to Bobby, who was much further up than me to stop running, we didn’t bring our passports. I was more worried about him getting hurt; either his already poor knees or any conflict with the robbers. He kept on with his pursuit. At that point, I turned around and headed back to our little camp and checked on Alisa, put on some pants and gathered what was left of our belongings. We were really shaken up. I put the remainder of our things in the remaining backpack, strapped it to me and picked up a bottle of insect repellant that had fallen out of the stolen bags to use as protection. It wasn’t likely that they would return but if they did I was fully prepared to give them a big puff in the eyes with the repellant.
Bobby came back after a while, drenched in sweat and had little white flowers all over him. He had only seen the back of one guy dressed in black running but had no bags. So there was more than one person involved. We were all eager to just get out of there and all grabbed stuff and began to leave. As we approached the watchtower, we noticed a fresh bottle of water that hadn’t been there last night. I climbed the ladder up, armed with my improvised mace to see if I would find our bags stashed up there, which they weren’t. When we exited the door of the watchtower, we spotted a lone backpack laying against the wall. I got closer to inspect the bag to see if it was one of ours, which it wasn’t, and then saw a Westerner walking our way. This man was in better luck than us because this bag was indeed his and they only snatched his ipod but left his passport.
While speaking with this couple, the watchtower man came up to us shouting something. We were warned ahead of time that he is a bit nutty and charges 2 yuan to climb the ladder. He was coming to collect the fee since I climbed the ladder looking for our stolen things. We were all stunned though by the fact that he was sweating bullets, dressed in black, had the same white flowers all in his hair that Bobby did and also came from the same area as the perpetrators darted off to.
The other Westerner who had his bag stolen spoke Chinese and helped us deal with this guy. He explained that we had our bags stolen but this man was still asking us for money. We tried explaining again that we have nothing to pay him because our bags were stolen. He then asked us where we are from and when we replied America, he said in English “Sorry”, shook Bobby’s hand, and darted off back to his tower. I felt like it took us only a few minutes to hike down the wall and get back to the street. It was just such a shame that this had to happen, mostly because nearly everyone has been so lovely and I hate having to feel suspicious of everyone then. As we were coming down, many Chinese were then starting their way up and there were many warm exchanges of Ni hao.
We spent the rest of our day in our hostel room in Beijing watching their dvd collection as a distraction. I lost my favorite day backpack which they no longer make, my ipod, our cellphone (which we’ve had since the Philippines in 2004), a deck of cards, a head lamp, and Alisa’s wallet which fortunately had only a small amount of money in it. Instead of getting presents on my birthday I ended up losing my things to some thieves. Xie xie!