Beijing – Day 3

Posted On By Rob

‘Great’ is a term thrown around a fair bit these days.  A sporting ‘great’, a ‘great deal’ (a bargain), a ‘great disappointment’ (a.k.a the Australian parliament) but few things in our modern lives really stack up against the truly great things on Earth; the Pyramids of Egypt; the Coliseum in Rome, the Parthenon in Athens or.. the Great Wall of China.

Today we discovered, first hand, why the famous stretch of wall guarding China’s northern frontier was given such a glorious and befitting title.  We devoted 100% of our final day in Beijing to visiting and hiking across the massive expanse of wall, which covers over 7,000 kms and is, in most places, around 10 meters tall, and wide enough to accommodate up to five people shoulder to shoulder.

Our day started at approximately 7:30am, we’d decided (wisely) to stay in the previous night to rest our feet for the day’s arduous task.  The previous day we had bought grocery items to prepare our lunch for the day, so we were quite prepared by the time 9am rolled around and we met our guide Andy in the lobby.


P1043930Our journey took us via a small mini-van out to the north east of Beijing, about two hours or so along expressways, which turned into wide streets, which turned again into smaller and smaller roads.  By the time we were weaving our way through summertime villages and resorts we were deep into the heart of the mountains, jutting up from sea level to tower hundreds of meters above us.

Along the way we were able to catch glimpses of a long stretch of wall, though it was always quite distant.  The tour had us trekking up from the north of the Great Wall to a section known as ‘Jiankou’, about 10kms west of the well known ‘Mutianyu’ section, which has been extensively rebuilt for the 2008 Olympic Games.

The hike began from the reaches of a tiny village perched on the back of one of the hilly expanses defended by the Great Wall.  I’m not going to lie to you, the climb up was tough going, reaching very, very steep inclines and across loose dirt and rocks.  The track was somewhat well worn, but still quite dangerous in places and very tiring.  We stopped at least four times to catch our breath, and twice for water.

We had a little doggie following us for most of the ascent up the mountain, he belonged to the village and he was very experienced at climbing the steep mountainside.  He was good company, although we parted at the very top of the mountain.

It took at least 45 minutes, perhaps an hour for us to reach the top, which happened to be the highest point that the wall reaches, with views for miles around.  Luckily, the climb was worth the immense effort – the views were staggeringly impressive, and the section of the wall be began from was in ‘original’ condition, dating back to the Ming  dynasty, or about 600-700 years old.


Our starting point on the wall was formerly a guardhouse/watchtower and gave us optimal viewing for the surrounding area.  We met another group of three Chinese folks who had walked all the way from the ‘Eagle Flying’ section, some 2kms to the west (or so).  We took in views of the ‘Arrow Nock’ section, which honestly must be seen to be believed.  This was truly impressive engineering and architecture at work.


Our 11km journey along the wall took us west, and we followed the top of the wall in most places as we followed it back towards the rebuilt section of ‘Mutianyu’.  The old sections were very tricky, and there was much damage and growth on top.  It was generally hard going, but we were able to make good time.  Most of the watchtowers are in ruins now, and in places the wall has been decimated to only a few meters tall but overall, the majority of the wall is still intact and survives to this day.


The views from each section were amazing, added to the mix was the most beautiful of weather – blue skies and very little wind.  The temperature was kind to us, and there was little snow left to cause any concerns about slipping.  By the time we hit our lunchtime destination, we were hungry and relaxed.  For lunch we ate Vegemite sandwiches on top of the Great Wall!


After lunch we continued to walk mostly downhill, though this was often very, very steep.  All of the wall after our lunch stop was reconstructed, so the footing was solid.  We were able to make decent time and took many photos of both the wall and of the surrounding area.  Dotting the way were vendors selling drinks, food and souvenirs.  As we had packed our own lunch we didn’t need anything, but it was fun to converse with the locals in their own tongue.


We also passed a few tourists walking the other direction, they seemed quite puffed from the steep ascent they were undertaking, and we were quite relieved not having to make the same climb.  In a few hours we reached the cable car section, but elected to keep walking rather than paying for the easy descent.


Once we finally returned to the bottom of the mountain, we were quite happy to jump back into the mini-bus for the return to Beijing.

Tomorrow we are jetting north to the cold expanse of Harbin for the annual Ice Festival.

Stay tuned for more..

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