Sharing stories is part of makes us who we are. Of course, it is the ability to tell a story to someone that makes it worthwhile. Not so much the audience, but it is in the sharing.
I encountered a moment of unexpected excitement in Shanhaiguan, a costal city in China located at the beginning of the Great Wall, and am sharing it here to say thank you to my mate Kent for his support of this epic quest.
Shanhaiguan is an interesting city in itself, having been strategic for defence for centuries to protect China from domestic threats, and was sieged and sacked in 1901 with most of what we now enjoy of the Great Wall that can found there being destroyed. What stands now was largely rebuilt in 1986 or thereabouts. Still, it is an impressive structure today of what must have been an impressive engineering feat back in the day centuries ago.
But that is not what this story is about.
When I set off on the run, I initially headed west running out of the town to the river that forms a valley which runs parallel to the Great Wall. The river is very wide in parts, maybe wider than the Han River in Seoul, and there are many bridges there which I thought would be good to cross over as part of this initiative.
I reached the river, and found I could head south to the Bohai Sea on a badly sealed road, or take a goat track that weaved it’s way along the reeds at waters edge below. So I decided to travel on the goat track.
Since beginning the running, I had been hearing fast air spinning around upstairs. There were a lot of planes in the sky from what it sounded to this old Forward Air Controller, but I couldn’t spot any despite the noise. I was at a loss to work out where they were or what they were doing.
As I took the goat track, I began to see the aircraft. Coming in to land at what I soon found to be an airport located abutting the river. Every two minutes, and with little break, these jet fighters were landing. An impressive sight.
Running closer, I encountered a farmer with his goats. He signalled to me something, but I didn’t know what he was indicating. I sensed something was not quite right up ahead. Then I realised the sounds I was hearing was also gun shot from shotgun. I wasn’t wanting to push my luck in China, already I was running in a city wearing a gong fu uniform and Mao Army hat. Not the easiest situation to explain when questioned…
I indicated I would proceed to the high ground, and then saw ahead of me two soldiers who were patrolling away from me in the same direction I was travelling. Both watching their arcs, both with shotgun drawn. After a few moments earlier considering the vulnerability of the location, and having taken some happy snaps, I decided to be on my best behaviour but also get a little closer to see what was going on.
By this stage, I was able to take some pretty good photos of the planes. I didn’t want to make it too obvious, but I ought not to have worried because of the cameras that were monitoring the area, including me no doubt.
It was then obvious to me. The soldiers were not hunting anyone. They were basically beaters, making sure there was going to be no aircraft Foreign Object Damage from birdlife taking off startled by the fighters. Their job was to make the reeds as least hospital as possible for birds. Besides, there was plenty of river for them to next elsewhere.
A little while later, I found a dead snake on the pathway. Being used to snakes in Australia that are pretty poisonous, I generally make it a habit to treat all snakes with respect. I had no idea what this snake was, and still have not identified it. But I was happier to see it after I had left the reeds.
Running further down the footpath, I started closing on an old ‘grandfather’ type character. He was adorable. Dressed in his Mao styled suit, he just wanted to talk. And talk. And talk some more.
My Chinese was pretty scant, but he had the impression that I knew enough to have a chat. I put it down to the fact that he was lonely and wanted to have a chat. It didn’t seem to bother him that I was a foreigner, but he was full of compliments for my gong fu uniform. In the end, I just had to run off. I couldn’t stand there and listen for a long time. I didn’t know how to say “sorry, but I had to run”, but he soon got the message.
And perhaps he was just showing my premises where this blog began. Sharing stories is part of makes us who we are. But it is in the sharing.