I spent a week waiting in Beijing for two friends from home to arrive. Every day groups from the hostel went off to the Great Wall and when they came back I tried not to listen to what they were saying about it as I didn’t want to have any preconceptions before I saw it for myself. Which is a bit silly right? Because a wall is a wall, is a wall. Except when it was built more than 2000 years ago and took more than ten years of hard labour to complete of course.
The wall was actually built in chunks between various natural defences like mountains. Nowadays the sections are in different states of repair, with some sections being patched up or rebuilt, while others have crumbled away or are completely overgrown with trees and shrubs. We went to a section called Mutianyu, which is 90km northeast of Beijing and is famous for its 26 watchtowers.
Seeing even just a small section of the wall is impressive, especially when you take in the mountainous region it was constructed in. After a bit of a sweaty walk up to it we were rewarded with incredible views of the surrounding mountains.
|Admiring the view.|
Fortunately the wall wasn’t too crowded although we did manage to overhear some brilliant catchphrases from fellow tourists. “We’re on a wall – let’s walk it!” being our favourite from a very enthusiastic American lady. We also met a lovely old Chinese man who almost fell over with laughter as he stopped to take photos of us and amused lots of other people as we tried to capture a classic ‘jumping in the air’ shot. For me it was brilliant to be able to make the trip with Anna and Jenny. Although it’s great to meet new people when you’re travelling alone, there’s nothing like doing it with friends who you can be just as silly as you like with.
|We made it! (You won’t believe how long it took us to get this shot.)|
In true Chinese style it appears it would be impossible to suppose that people would visit a national monument purely because it is the attraction your country is most famous for and therefore something else has to be offered as well. In the case of Mutianyu, it’s a toboggan down. It’s the most surreal thing to one minute be walking along a very old wall and the next to be whizzing down a hill to the bottom, with an automated voice shouting: “Danger! Slow down” the whole way.
|Once you’ve walked the wall there’s only one way down!|
As soon as Anna got off she proclaimed it to be the best part of the wall and spent the rest of our trip telling people about it. Even at the end of three weeks she said it was her favourite thing about China. That either says a lot about the toboggan or a lot about Anna.
|#22 comes complete with a comedy hat.|