CHINA: Up the Yantze to The Forbidden City and Back

We decided we were going to sail up the Yantze while it was still there, C-7 injury or not. To say that our friends were stunned is to put it mildly.

Although we had already encountered accessability issues on our trips to Figi, New china:costumeZealand, Portugal and Spain; China was completely different. There are zero accessibilty laws in the country, and most disabled people just stay home. You never see them in the street because it is impossible for them to get around. So when Betsy and I showed up with my walking sticks and bright purple Quickie with its 3-spoke carbon fiber wheels, we were definitely an object of fascination. Not only to the Chinese, but to the other people on our tour as well.

We were with a group of 20 well-seasoned travelers who had pretty much seen it all, and none of them thought twice about the possibility of my disability slowly them down or holding them back. In fact, most of them would literally push Betsy out to the way to help, especially when it came to getting the chair in and out of the tour bus. Like most people we've ecountered, when you ask them for help, they bend over backwards to give it to you. This was especially true when we visited the Forbidden City. Because the doors and gates don't open all the way to the ground, I had to be lifted up and carried over most of them -- along with a hell of a lot of steps, when I couldn't make it on my own. As a result, I didn't miss a thing. It was truly glorious. But the biggest thrill for me was the Great Wall.

From the beginning of the trip, I had been determined to Walk the Wall. We visited the section nearest Bejing, and there is a tram that takes you up to the tourist entrance. I left the Quickie behind and just took the sticks. As I started walking across the top of the wall, the other visitors starting taking notice. The more distance I covered, the more they seemed moved and astonished. I was concentrating on covering a distance of about 500 yards, most of it uphill. Betsy was following close behind and later told me that most of the people we passed were in tears as I neared the end. I didn't notice them, to be perfectly honest. I vaguely remember trying to smile as I passed them, but I was mainly concentrating on doing what I'd promised myself I would do. Walk the Wall. One step at a time.

And I did it. A man who had been told he would never walk again had just walked 500 yards across the top of the Great Wall of China. It wasn't easy, and it left me exhausted. If I could have felt it, I'm sure I would have been in a lot of pain. But I did it. And that's really the point of this story. If I can do it, you can, too.

Our travel agent confirmed my disabilities with china:ricksawthe tour group leader who was very informative about the mobility issues of the river boat, the tour bus, the hotels and the airlines and airports we would be using. As an aspect of his integrity, he did not tell anyone else on the tour about Mike's injury. They didn't find out until we showed up. Which is just as it should be.

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