Wednesday was the visit to the Great Wall.
There are a couple of choices to see the wall, so Jodie (thinking about the old man) suggested the shorter walk, located in Huairou County about 45 miles from Beijing. The guidebook describes the Mutianyu Great Wall as enjoying a long history and part of the glorious culture of China.
The location in the towering mountains and high ridges must have presented the builders with a logistical nightmare, especially with many sections made of granite. The unique structure makes the wall almost indestructible.
Jodie had organised our driver Albert and his taxi for £40 (which covered the day) to pick us up from outside the UK Embassy. While we walked the short distance to meet him, they were changing the guards along Embassy row.
We followed the squad as they marched up the road, staying behind them as they made their way back to their barracks. Impatient as always, I eventually caught up with them and apparently was keeping in good step, mimicking them, arms swinging away.
Needless to say, when the squad leader tripped over the pavement, I overtook them. I couldn’t keep Albert waiting.
As you leave Beijing and enter the countryside, you notice the difference between the hustle and bustle of the capital city, compared to the idyllic, but industrious life on the land. Sascha saw someone on two crutches working in the fields which gives you some idea of the hard life they lead.
We travelled for an hour and a half, stopping only in a village to buy the water that we would need for the adventure. The shop owners were Albert’s friends and were very courteous, and I guess that’s why he took us there. It did provide the opportunity to see what village life is like with their potholed roads and the market on the side of the main road.
On reaching the wall, Albert showed us where to buy our tickets for the cable car and wall (£7) and then I assume he went back to the taxi for a nap while Sascha pondered on her first ride in a cable car.
There are two ways to get to the wall, either by foot or by cable car and we chose the less arduous method. The cable car company staff are used to dealing with westerners, so there’s no stress in purchasing the tickets. Well? If I managed to buy them, it must have been easy.
To reach the cable car, you have to climb some narrow steps, bordered on both sides with stalls and the incessant pleas of the street vendors to buy their wares. Once passed this pain, you clamber into the moving cable car and then are justly rewarded for your previous suffering with the outstanding views.
After reaching the summit, I noticed a small building with someone working on the top. Although we were not meant to, it was a golden opportunity to climb up a ladder onto the roof for a decent photo opportunity.
Always take advantage of anything that comes your way for taking photos. What’s the worst they could have done? Ask me to get off in a language I didn't understand?
The cable car delivers you to the mid way point of this section of the wall, so a big dilemma is faced. Which direction to take? Left appeared to be the most attractive, with the summit disappearing into the mist, so left it was.
The first segment went downhill, so the hike began reasonably well as we reached the flat, avoiding the occasional trap of a stairway that took you to the bottom of the wall.
We then met the climb uphill. Immediately reality set in as we realised that the walk wouldn’t be that effortless.
Continuing the trek we began to make out where the peak was, so decided that we would try and make the top before turning back. It appeared to have a steep drop after the summit, so it made sense to turn around there.
Walking along the wall, you wonder how or why they built the steps so big because they are certainly not made for people with short legs.
As we reached the penultimate climb, which is well over a hundred steps, I decided that I had to do it in one go. Telling myself, “Don’t at any stage pause for breath because you’ll never want to start again.”
Umm… it didn’t quite pan out like that. But, at least I made it as my poor little legs went into overdrive to overcome the last sharp climb.
The final steps were so steep that one girl decided the best way to come down was on her bottom, rather than chance slipping or stumbling. They may have only been thirty steps, but in the damp environment, care was needed.
Triumphantly, I made the top and was relieved to see that we couldn’t go any further as the path was blocked. Celebrating with a nice cool drink of water, there could be no question about this weary body travelling on.
I can’t do the views justice with words, so here are the photos >>>
During our return to Beijing, Albert asked us if we could spare five minutes when we arrived back in Beijing to enable a radio station to interview us. A young lady met us outside the Embassy and jumped in alongside Albert holding a microphone aloft.
We struck a deal. We gave the interview while he drove the weary two of us back to the apartment. It helped that he did all the talking.
That evening, the girls put the final piece in place for our Xian trip by finding our hotel online. We didn’t appreciate it at the time, but they certainly came up trumps.