FolkestoneJack's Tracks

The Great Wall

Posted in Beijing, China by folkestonejack on November 20, 2012

The final day of my trip began with an early morning metro ride to the pick-up point for a tour to the Great Wall at Mutianyu, Huairou District, which is approximately 70km outside Beijing. I had opted to travel with Urban Adventures in the hope that their relatively early start (6.30am) from the city centre would give us a decent spell on the wall before the majority of visitors arrived.

The plan threatened to unravel fairly early on as we hit a massive traffic jam caused by some construction work at a roundabout in central Beijing. Thankfully the roads flowed pretty freely once we made our escape and we reached Mutianyu around 8.45am. A short cable car ride took us up to the Great Wall which was largely deserted, except for a small group of visiting soldiers.

The Great Wall at Mutianyu with dedication to Chairman Mao

The Great Wall at Mutianyu with a dedication to Chairman Mao on the hillside

I don’t suppose I had ever really contemplated the kind of terrain that the Great Wall crossed, nor how high it would be, so this came as something of a surprise. The view down to the village below certainly spoke volumes!

The view down from the Great Wall at at Mutianyu

The view down from the Great Wall at at Mutianyu

After climbing out of the cable car we turned left and headed up to the last tower at the western end of the public section of the wall. The public section of the wall has been restored and is generally easy to follow, but there is a real kick at the end with a steep climb to the final tower. Any desire to congratulate ourselves on such a feat was quickly dispelled by the sight of an old lady selling souvenirs and snacks at the top! The old lady insisted that we should climb much further, but the sign saying ‘No tourist section, please donot pass’ and the CCTV camera trained on the gateway persuaded us otherwise…

A quiet-ish day on the Great Wall

A quiet-ish day on the Great Wall

The way back down was much easier and we had soon made it back past our initial entry point. By now there were tourists across the whole length of the wall, however the numbers were still fairly modest. I guess this is the advantage of visiting in the off-season, along with the incredible colours of the vegetation.

Tower 11 sits at the end of a short spur off the main wall

Tower 11 sits at the end of a short spur off the main wall

The original plan been to walk back to tower 6 and choose between the three options available to get back to the village (walk down, slide down on a toboggan or take the chair-lift). However with a little time in hand I continued on to the three connected towers guarding the pass at Zhengguantai (a rare occurence on the Great Wall) before turning back and choosing the chair lift to get me down.

The Great Wall

The Great Wall

Although the wall has been restored it is still a terrific place to visit. The view from the wall was fascinating as we could see how unrestored and overgrown sections of the wall continued to snake around the mountains in the distance. This can all be seen in the photograph below which shows a distant unrestored wall (running down the centre of the image from top to bottom), further towers on the hilltops and another section of wall on the nearest hillside. It’s not hard to see how fascinating it can be and why so many visitors come back again and again, walking different stretches of the wall. I’d certainly love to go back and hike some of the unrestored sections.

Unrestored sections of Great Wall can be seen in the distance from the wall at Mutianyu

Unrestored sections of Great Wall can be seen in the distance from the wall at Mutianyu

Our small group gathered back in the village at midday and from here we headed to a local restaurant for some much needed sustenance. It was a great day trip and certainly the perfect way to round off this trip to China.

Great Wall Gallery

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