Not just a pretty face
Don’t let a pretty face fool you.
A lot has changed in the last 12 years since I last ran the wall, but the one thing that I have noticed is the amount of areas of the wall that are now closed and fenced off because they have been turned into massive tourist parks. You will find a small section of the park is dedicated to the wall, but most of it is all sorts of other touristy things that are not directly related to the wall.
Once again, we were trundling along the wall, just past a section that has been turned into a film set. There was actually a film being shot as we passed through the massive set – no-one seemed to mind or really care about us. We even watched a bit of the filming and took pictures of the cast and on we ran. A few km down, we hit this massive blue fence. As with all the fences we come across, it does not mean stop, but find a way over or under. Under we went, we could see the massive sections of tourist infrastructure that had been built – walkways, Mongolian villages, and archery ranges amphitheatres and more. We took a wide berth of this and continued to run, unnoticed.
In the distance we could see the wall continue past the fence, so on we went. We were nearly there when we noticed the last stall and the option for a cold-drink. We were past the risk, we thought. We turned in and were greeted by a beautiful guide. She was dressed in leopard skin “One-Zee” and was really pretty. She invited us in for a tour, but we explained we only wanted a cold drink and we would be off. Andy then went up to her and asked if he could have a picture with her, this was followed by a few great poses. Ten minutes later we were on our way. We walked out, turned left and off we ran, 800 metres to go and we were through. Once again we had managed to duck and dive through a closed area.
We then heard a shout behind us, it was the girl, gesturing and calling us back. Andy was the first to turn and go back to her, Pete and I continued to walk on, looking back. We could now see she was telling us that we could not go in that direction. We pointed to the wall and shouted “Chang-Chang”. We could see Andy was trying to explain what we were up to, smiled at her and followed us as we headed down the road as quickly as possible. We picked up pace and kept looking back until the stall was out of site, then picked up the pace to a jog. We had made it, we were now joyfully discussing our getaway and the route ahead out and under the fence.
Our joy came to a quick abrupt end as a policeman on a motorcycle cut us off and stopped us, gesturing in no uncertain terms that we were now basically in shit! That will teach us for just thinking the pretty little face would just leave being brushed off and not taken seriously and thinking that we had got away with it. We were now trying our best to convince the policeman that we knew nothing and were following the wall.
We showed him the video of our journey, called the crew and got them to speak to him, but we could see things were turning bad. Eventually the policeman wheeled his bike to the building ahead and went inside. He then came back with another man and we tried all over again, but no one was letting us budge an inch. They then pointed to a Jeep and gestured we get in. Andy in front, Pete, the policeman and myself in the back. It was off to the office, this is normally where things generally escalate and go all wrong.
We were driven about 2 km back into the park and off loaded, the policeman then gestured towards the big office block about 1 km away and off we walked. You can imagine every possible scenario was being placed through as we walked; the 3 of us were trying to come up with the biggest story possible.
On reaching the complex and massive front, there was security everywhere, he pointed to some chairs at the gate and said “sit”. I sat down like a naughty school boy and he disappeared into the office. Five minutes later he came out again, looked at us and disappeared again. We looked at each other in confusion. Then he was back again, he stopped looked at us, we thought “oh hell, we are going to be marched inside”. But out of the blue he just gestured to us: “Go, go. Get the hell out of the park.” We needed no more encouragement.