The Great Wall at Mutianyu
is slightly less well-known to the tourist trade than its sister site at Badaling, but is no less spectacular. And it certainly was spectacular as we and our guide, whose nametag said Tony and who told us he was a native of Beijing, took the cable car up the mountain to reach the fourteenth of twenty-two guard towers along the 2250 meters of restored wall, 540 meters above sea-level. (You can measure our progress on this map
of the Mutianyu site.) Tony turned us loose, giving us the option of walking left, a shorter but steeper climb, or right, longer but lower. Ready for exercise and hungry for views, we opted for left, and began the hike, as Tony, blase as only a seasoned guide can be, turned back towards the parking lot for a cold drink and a nap. The steeper choice was obviously the less popular one, and there were only four or five other little groups setting out with us.
Click on any photo to enlarge.
En route to the wall, our car passed through some beautiful farmland and countryside.
This is near the origin of the canal that will eventually end up running through the Golden River Stream in the Forbidden City.
Our first sight of the wall, from the cable car.
Emerging from the cable car and onto the first observation deck.
A path ran the length of the Beijing side, for the convenience of the soldiers stationed on the wall.
And we first stepped onto that incredible piece of history. Tony told us that the tradition is, once you have set foot on the wall, you have become a hero.
The wall is narrower here than at Badaling. Only an average of 4 meters across, compared to Badaling's 6 meters. It's also the only section of wall to have crenelated parapets on both sides, allowing archers to aim for targets on either the Mongolian side, or the Beijing, the home side.
This one lone, toothless vendor sat under his orange umbrella, selling Cokes and beers to the thirsty hikers.
A few of our fellow hikers; this is the biggest crowd of people we saw all day. Exchanging nods and greetings, and news of reaching The End with those who were returning, we began to feel slightly like pilgrims, weary but eager, putting one foot in front of the other.
Looking up from Tower 21, the final stretch up to the twenty-second tower seemed an impossible feat. Known as 'The Thousand Steps', it was actually half that many, but i can't blame whoever coined the phrase for exaggerating.
Taking a breather, partway up.
Gasping for breath in the muggy air, we proudly look down upon our accomplishment.
The end of the restored section; we see nature beginning to reclaim what was once the symbol of one of the greatest civilizations on earth.
But in the other direction, the restored wall stretches farther than the eye can see. Surveying the terrain that we've covered, we feel like kings. Superheroes!, Tony exclaims when we tell him we made it to The End.
And it's time to start down again. The first flight of fifteen steps is so steep that we cling to the wall, and go down sideways for fear of slipping on the damp stones.
Returning once more to the fifteenth watchtower, we look back, somewhat awestruck at the enormity of the wall that we have conquered.