Hiking The Great WallAugust 29, 2019 in China ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C
Big highlight day today: the Great Wall! Up fairly early and on to the subway, as we needed to get to a certain spot on the other side of Beijing by 7:30am. We made it as the subway is pretty efficient, but we were still among the last to arrive! The drive out to the wall was about 90 minutes, which passed fairly quickly in anticipation. We were part of a 50-seat bus tour, but we'd organised a special hiking tour separately so it was just us, a pair of Brazilians, a pair of Mexicans and a Brazilian tour guide.
When doing the Wall from Beijing, you've got a handful of options. Most locals head for the section at Badaling as it's the easiest walking and also the closest to the city. We were heading to Mutianyu section, where it's less crowded but harder walking and further from the city.
To clear up a few misconceptions: the total amount of "wall" built was around 30,000km. It's not one single wall either, it's a network of defence walls really and they snake all over the place in northern China. There's even walls that were between provinces before China was united under a single ruler. The wall itself dates back to around the 5th century BC but nothing from that era remains; most of the wall you see today was built by the Ming in the 15th century. Though of course, the restored sections around Mutianyu and Badaling etc are fairly modern restorations - they aren't ancient by any means.
That aside, we set off on our hike. It was fairly easy going at first, but gradually went more and more uphill, until it was just ridiculous gradient after ridiculous gradient. As usual I was the least fit member of the group and lagged behind quite a bit in various places. After about 1:15 of climbing, we finally reached the wall at tower 23, a point most Mutianyu visitors never reach. This was essentially the end of the restored Mutianyu section, and beyond here it quickly turned to rubble and overgrown stones. You can still see it snaking over the mountains in the distance, but it would be seriously hard going to get there.
We stopped for a bit, happy with our effort, then started walking back along the wall. Most people coming up arrive via the cable car at tower 14, the chair lift at tower 4, or the stairs at tower 10. Thankfully most of what we were doing was downhill now, so I wasn't struggling particularly! The people climbing up the other way were struggling though!
We snaked our way back down, enjoying the views of and from the wall - since it sits up on a ridge you could actually see the skyline of Beijing 70km away. Apparently the weather was super clear at the moment, supposedly it had rained quite a lot the previous week and was now just blue skies. You really got the feeling as well how not only was the wall for defence, but for trade control, transport, and for signalling as well since you can see it at great distances each way.
We spent probably 2 hours walking along the top of the wall before eventually reaching tower 10. The others proceeded to tower 6 and the toboggan ride (we skipped, as it was 100 yuan each!) while we took the stairs down. Lots and lots of stairs, which was painful after the climb up, but going down was easier than going up! Met up with the others at the bottom where we had lunch at a nearby restaurant, then back on the bus to Beijing.
I nodded off and woke up an hour later, noticing that the bus was completely silent - almost everyone was asleep! It had been a long and exhausting day. Another couple of crowded subway rides back to our hotel area, where we visited a different nearby restaurant for dinner. It's funny the looks you get from the waitstaff (particularly old ladies) when you walk in - in a way they're terrified of dealing with you which is kind of funny. Kept it simple this time and just had a shredded pork in sweet bean sauce dish, along with a fried rice.
Back home for another early night after another exhausting day!Read more