Great Wall of... Naked?
Sophie’s knee has popped back into place much to my relief. She’s hobbling on the crumbling unstable ground, sharp icy wind whip her tears dry. She won’t be looking forward to the solid clay bed awaiting us at the end of the day. Not to mention no running water or electricity. One of my group members seems to have strayed. Great. Now is not the time nor the… Is that someone naked on top of a dilapidated watch tower?
Scrambling on hands and knees, clutching at straggly bushes to haul myself up the next broken step, my balance waivers as I try to reach this nudist. Military heavily patrol this section of the Wild Wall. What is she thinking?
We snake along the unrestored structures of the Great Wall. Overgrown and crumbling ramparts from century to century, ravaged by nature, man and time, I pause briefly to catch my breath. The true beauty of the unrestored defensive structure lies before me, I gaze over the broken, uneven steps, my eyes follow the infinite serpent like wall and I appreciate (for more than one reason) that there are no tourists for miles. The raw wilderness takes my breath away. It is extremely rare to have access to these ramshackle pathways of the Great Wall, so far beyond where the fleets of tourist busses unload their snap happy comrades. I am truly privileged.
Approaching her bare bum, I break the peaceful silence. “Sarah, what the hell are you doing? Get down from there! And more importantly where the hell are your clothes? It’s 4C!”
She grins, “Take a photo of me?” Reluctantly I point my camera. The group are doubled over in hysterics. Have I missed something?
Sarah strikes multiple poses as if this is the most normal thing in the world, I awkwardly snap away not sure where to look as she continues her imitation of Madonna’s vogue.
My eyes dart around nervously. Searching, scanning, watching. This section of the wall is renowned for its strong military presence. I desperately want her to put her clothes back on, but intrigue has taken over.
“Perfect!” she says whilst bundling her clothes. “I’ve been naked on every continent,” she exclaims proudly. What? This is a regular occurrence? My curiosity heightens.
“Antarctica, Everest and now The Great Wall are the coolest of my collection.” The group have managed to regain their composure. We continue trekking.
“My sister did this in the middle of Gay Pride in Amsterdam – That’s badass.” I question her in amazement, “Your sister does this too?”
“It was pure coincidence. She returned from a trip and I came back from a different trip – we’d both taken nude photos! Once we’d realised this, it had to become a competition. Sibling rivalry took care of the rest.” I laugh. Typical twins.
Temporarily detouring off the wall, the path ahead had completely collapsed. Hiking through grassy valleys, desolate villages with squealing rosy cheeked children; their clay homes surrounded by corn fields. Clambering back onto the wall, the serenity and silence is broken once again with laughter. Sarah is laying face first in the dirt. Her body as straight as an arrow. She is planking. Of course she is.
We chat about her cheeky escapades as the ground smashes underfoot. “I do it because it makes me, and others laugh.” She sure got that right! “I like being happy and this contributes to that. Being naked is something people largely think of as either sexual or embarrassing. They forget that it's actually just hilarious!”
I think about Sarah’s words as the days light begins to dim. Weaving our way off the wall, meandering towards a small village, a local banquet is awaiting us. My train of thought is broken when I hear Sophie shriek, “Is that snow?” Rushing towards a patch of white, no larger than a king bed, you can almost hear the tssss as she plunges her burning, swollen knee into the snow.
Sarah streams past, a trail of clothes in her wake. Laying down she begins making snow angels. The group are again in stitches of laughter.
An aroma of roasting cashew nuts and sweet corn floats towards us on the night breeze. We trudge toward our farm stay, reflecting on the day that was. A warm welcome of toothless grins and crinkled eyes greets us as we’re ushered inside out of the bitter cold, goats and sheep sharing our quarters. Bowls of steaming delicacies are placed before us. Nothing could have prepared us for the grandeur, humour and beauty of today. We hunker down into our feast. I glance to my left. Yes, Sarah has clothes on.
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