On Tuesday night, CTV viewers watched as teams from The Amazing Race Canada arrived at the Great Wall of China. So much goes into making something like that happen; just getting all the cameras and sound equipment through customs at the Beijing airport is a major operation. The nature of the race, however, means that such an encounter is over in about half an hour for the runners involved.
Teams did not have to run up the wall, or scale it, or do anything physical, really. They had to put on red tour guide hats and jackets and pose as tour guides for one of the shows’ major sponsors, Sinorama Holidays. Team members led a tour of about 20 tourists along a flat section of the Great Wall at Ju Yung Pass, about 60 Km from Beijing. The trick was they had to memorize a tour speech and say parts of it in both French as well as Mandarin.
So, okay, some of them had to do it twice before getting instructions on to the next checkpoint. Still, it’s not like they had to climb up several steep sections of the enormous, ancient landmark.
That task was left up to our gang of four — Jim Quan, Jim Slotek, Alex Yurosevic and myself.
Lemme tell ya, if you’re going to ever try this, bring the right shoes. The climb at this section of the wall is very steep in parts, and the steps are crazy uneven. Going up or down, the surprise is how unpredictable each step becomes. Each step is higher or lower than the one before, sometimes by as much as half a foot. It would take Mike Holmes a few thousand years to make it right.
Even if the steps were to code, there are a lot of them. Me and the Jims made it up three sections, and that was enough. This may shock some of you, but guys who cover TV for a living are not always super athletic.
Besides, between the smog around Beijing and me being, let’s just say, not in game shape, anything further would have made for an expensive ride in an ORNGE chopper.
Photographer Stan, however, kept going. He climbed clear out of sight, at least doubling the distance I was able to hike. He may still be there — the wall stretches clear across China. The very tourist-friendly Ju Yong Pass stretches as far as the eye can see, following the crest of a mountain range. Tourists up for a longer adventure can hike around in a giant circle, crossing highways and riverways. There are stretches that are downhill, but I never got that far.
Along the way you’ll spot the occasional sign telling people not to leave graffiti on the walls. This is generally surounded by graffiti on the walls.
There are a few souvenir stands at this section of the wall but not so much by North American standards. Just being there and taking pictures is the best memento of the trip. There are also a few museum gardens and other sections to visit, although we didn’t have time to check them out.
This section of The Great Wall stretches so far I got Stan to snap photos of me trying to sell it to Trump. The deal is going to be HUGE. Those guys back in customs in Beijing are not going to be happy.
The Amazing Race Canada resumes next Tuesday on CTV as teams travel by high speed rail to first Shanghai and then their next major stop: Bangkok. The gang of four follow; look for that report here.