Don't step on a crack or you'll fall and break your back 

(Ducky- The Land Before Time)

Before you read this I should apologise, a pre-warning of sorts, for changing tense several (not sure how many) times in todays blog.

This morning we got up at six to go to the Great Wall of China. 

The past two days have been fantastic. Our new Chinese friends Roy and Carol (we couldn't spell or pronounce there real names, but fortunately they already had some Western one's ready for us) invited us to come to dinner with them in there home town, around one hours drive from Beijing.

We accepted, of course.

Earlier that morning Roy and Carol had kindly driven all the way into the city to help us retrieve our bikes from the Beijing train station.

Apparently they still hadn't arrived. But after some arguing (and me trying to go out the back and look myself) they were finally presented to us, along with all of our bags. Unfortunately our speedos had been broken off our bikes. The funny thing was that we had tried to take them off before handing them over, but were unable to as they were permanently locked on. The villains had obviously had the same trouble, which was why they'd resorted to snapping them off. Why they hadn't bothered to remove the computers on the bicycle forks that enable the speedos to actually work I don't know, they would have come straight off. 

After this we rode back to the Beijing City Central Youth Hostel (another fine establishment...) and Roy and Carol brought our bags back. 

Our bikes back safe and we were off with Roy Jones and Carol, two of the best looking Chinese people we've met!!

The drive out via the Expressway was an interesting one, as I'd heard that earlier that day there had been a crash that had killed over thirty people, and with a decent imagination I'd foreseen my own death in another such incident. 

Well it wasn't to be, and after we'd made a few short detours picking up Roy's beautiful but annoyed wife who we must have kept waiting on the side of the street, we headed off to dinner.

This was a wonderful affair, all the dumplings, duck, vegetables, and other things I don't know the name of you could eat, and before long Roy had very kindly invited us to crash one of his mates weddings.

Did we accept, well of course, who'd give up the chance to see a 'traditional' Chinese Western wedding. True paradox aside, that night we stayed at Roy's, having a fascinating discussion about Confucianism, Taiwan, Tibet and Chinese autocracy, and just before being warned not to speak to anyone else about such things (apparently if we had of we may have been rotting in a Chinese prison cell right now) we slumped into a wonderfully comfortable bed. 

The wedding was a wonderful affair, unlike anything else I'd ever seen, and more, and I even might of shed a few tears, but I'll argue that these were induced from all the smoke in the room. (You get a free plate of ciggies with your pre-dinner snacks- seriously, they were laid out on a plate).

Lunch was a sumptuous banquet, with so much food on our oversized table that plates were being constantly piled on top of one another. Even if I hadn't eaten for days I couldn't possibly have sampled every dish (although I couldn't possibly have wanted to either...). In fact this may have been the time I shed a tear, but I can't quite recall. After another delectably eccentric (sounds a little like myself) meal we headed back to Beijing, deliriously tired from all the excitement.

And so, much to your exasperation (if you're still reading that is) the following morning we were finally at the worlds greatest monument, the Great Wall. (Don't worry, the world had many 'greatest monuments').

After being scammed by the operators of the chair lift- taking our tickets and pretending to be the cable car, we finally got to the top just before 9am, and two hours before half of China's 200 million pensioners would show up.  

The wall was incredible, the view made it even greater, the breeze made it cooler and the complete lack of crowds made it 'choicer' (a new word I just made up).

After walking up stairs for around 4kms (ten to my legs) we came to a section high on the plateau that said 'DANGER, DO NOT ENTER.' To me this is a little like saying 'ENTER THE CAVE OF MANY VIRGINS SIR.' (woops, did I really just think that!?). They would have been better off saying 'GETS BORING HERE, BUT KEEP WALKING IF YOU CAN BE BOTHERED.' 

Now I was excited, woohoo, here's the good bit I thought before I jumped the barrier. But it soon became apparent that others had read the same things I did when we passed an excited Japanese couple who gave us the thumbs up (around four times).

When we reached what we thought was the top of the mountain some time later the track went bush and this was were we found the real Great Wall of China.

Unmolested and untouched for what must have been millenia, trees grew through the centuries old decaying turrets whilst rocks were strewn about, weathered by years of neglect. And here the path became difficult to follow.

It was just at this moment, when I was clambering amongst the rocks that I saw it.

A giant python. 

Right before I almost stepped on it that was. 

My mouth clamped shut and you might have heard my heart beating from Beijing. Unlike me though this guy was a cool customer and he slowly slid away, then over and down the side of the Wall into a vast chasm, whilst I was left standing there, with only a little dampness in my pants to prove the encounter ever happened.

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