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- Adventures of a Traveller -
Beijing Day 5: The Great Wall at Mutianyu 
27th-Jul-2006 12:14 am

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.

26th-Jul-2006 04:21 pm (UTC)
Great pictures! I really like the ones where you can see the wall stretching into the distance; the sense of enormity is kind of awe-inspiring.

26th-Jul-2006 05:03 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Isn't it incredible? There was just this sense of... vastness. The mountains stretching into the fog, and the wall stretching across the mountains like a ribbon of gray in a sea of green. Amazing.
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27th-Jul-2006 04:24 am (UTC) - Re: THE SUPERHERO!
We really DIDN'T mean to go up all the steps! We thought, well let's just go as far as we can in an hour. Then we thought, well let's just go out to that last tower and LOOK up the steps. And then we were there and we thought, let's just go up to that marker, about 50 steps up. And then we got there and said, we made it this far, we better go on up! Stopping about every 50 for a sit down and a drink of water, it wasn't all that bad. I'm sure glad i did it!
26th-Jul-2006 08:46 pm (UTC)
Fantastic photos. I am so jealous! My sister-in-law was just there as well, and my mother-in-law is in China and is probably seeing it too. Now I want to go.
27th-Jul-2006 04:32 am (UTC)
You SHOULD go! Everyone should go! Next time you're in the area, bop over for a quick visit. Seriously, i have no idea how people can take a week or two vacation and go halfway around the world. I'm SO glad to be living just five hours away, the trip was almost painless (except for flying communist air, that was NOT painless. The food was terrible, and communists don't board by row number). But no jet lag, no travel fatigue, it was glorious. I'm terribly impressed by your sister- and mother-in-law for making a trip like that!
27th-Jul-2006 06:09 am (UTC)
I want to go over sometime soon, since we're on the West Coast and it's not as far. I'm determined so a few weeks there is okay, I don't think we could afford or take the time to go for longer than two weeks. My sister-in-law is living in London and just goes all over the place all the time (I need to learn her financial secrets). My mother-in-law went over for two weeks on a medical mission, they went to North Korea too if you can believe it. She said it made China look open and free. I can't wait for her to get back and tell us proper stories, she's only been able to send really short emails. I'll definitely be posting about it when I find out. :D
27th-Jul-2006 09:28 am (UTC)
Oo, if you learn her financial secrets, tell me! What a life. North Korea, wow! China does look very open and free, especially considering the stories i've heard of it ten years ago. It didn't feel threatening at all to me. I'd love to hear about North Korea, though! Wow.
27th-Jul-2006 02:02 am (UTC)
This one made me tear up a little.

*is such a nerd*
27th-Jul-2006 04:33 am (UTC)
I'm GLAD you're a nerd! It makes me tear up too.
27th-Jul-2006 08:48 am (UTC)
Usually I do LJ in the morning before work and am rushed for time and don't look. So today I had the brains to leave a separate window open so I would remember to look at your pictures. And good lord! I always thought movies like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon exaggerated the beautiful nature scenes, but they totally didn't! These are incredible!

You make me want to visit China, which I've never really had the desire to do before....
29th-Jul-2006 09:52 pm (UTC)
Your pictures are wonderful. I went to the Badaling site, and it was so crowded with tourists. It looks like you had the whole wall to yourself

This may be a stupid question, but the steps that you climbed, were they of even height? When I tried to climb them, some were twice as tall as the others, making it very difficult to climb. I gave up half-way, though I will also use the excuse that it was about 100 degrees F when I visited it.

I decided to make myself the cheesy tourist by getting my dad and myself t-shirts stating that "I climbed the Great Wall of China." My dad still wears it, but always has to confess that his daughter climbed it and not him.
30th-Jul-2006 05:34 am (UTC)
On the steepy-bit the steps were all nice and even, with an odd man out every 25 or so that had a drainage channel through it, so it was quite easy. On the rest of the wall, though, cause it was all up and down, then'd have these weird half-steps, or broad steps, or no steps where it was too steep and they should've had steps, so really the stair-climbing was, in a way, the easiest to deal with. And 100 degrees F is NOT an excuse. That's a reason, real and bona fide, my friend!

That is so cute, those teeshirts! I got so mad when they were selling them right in the middle of the city. Someone could buy one without ever going NEAR the great wall! Cheating!!!
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