Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Great Wall of China - 40° 25' 55" N 116° 33' 30" E

You'd think our Bucket List would be getting smaller.
We chose a magical day for our visit to The Great Wall.  Despite it being my third visit, it remains awe-inspiring.  We went to the Mutianyu section which was first built in the mid-sixth century with a few renos during the Ming Dynasty and a major overhaul in 1569.

To save the time and effort hiking to the top of the hill to access the wall, a handy gondola has been installed.  We were lured by its ease and found ourselves in the very same gondola as Melania Trump had traveled in just one month before! It definitely made for a easy ride up but we were a bit sad that the toboggan run down was closed.  I wonder if Melania got to do that?

Almost rich and famous!
We were very clever in our choice of day, time of year and section of wall and thus avoiding peak times.  The Wall can get very busy! 

Luckily, this WASN'T during our visit.
The Wall does get a little crowded at times!

We hiked along a mostly deserted wall, huffing and puffing up the steep inclines and even steeper steps.  The life of a Chinese soldier defending the wall must have been a tough one. We hiked a few kilometres along the restored portion of the wall and continued for several hundred metres along an unrestored section.  The views out over the rugged mountains were stunning.

Us on The Great Wall!
We learned that not only is the Great Wall
visible from the moon, it works the other way around, too.
Just off the gondola, setting our hiking objective
Hiking up

The wall does form an impressive barrier. It was built along the ridge of the hills.  We can only imagine what foot soldiers approaching it must have thought of the 4-8 metre-high barrier as they slogged up 20-40 degree inclines towards it.

Even as tourists with proper walking/hiking shoes, walking the cleaned-up, evened-up stone steps on top of the wall, we struggled with the inconsistent heights between treads.  The average foot soldier of the sixth century would have been wearing armour and carrying much more than a camera, water bottle and granola bar.

At "The Peak" of the Great Wall (but we kept going)
approaching the less-restored section
Rugged and overgrown, ...
... but still very much a wall.
Prayer ribbons, looking south
An old guard house
and down again
Our hiking buddy, Ryan from NYC
Vast views, magically uncrowded
"We came from waaay down there?"
The gondola saved us from this climb!
Outside an old garrison barracks
Out of the wind and rain, but that's all
Views down the steps
Lesser known tourist attraction: The Great Fence of China
Beautiful restoration work on a guard house

All told, we spent about three hours wandering on top of the wall.  As it is December, it was predictably cold as we walked the embrasures.  The scope of just how much work it must have been to build, and how much maintenance it must require, was one of the preponderances we had during our poke around the landmark.

After our gondola ride back down the hill, we had lunch at a group restaurant and then a two-and-a-half hour bus ride back to our hotel.  This gave us a chance to see the Chinese countryside and outskirts of Beijing, and a chance to chat with our English-speaking guide about what it was like to be a Chinese citizen.  Watch for a future post where we discuss this!


Yep, we were up there!



We found it!
On the Great Wall tour, we met Ryan, an American from New York City that we caught up with the next evening.  He told us about a microbrewery he planned to search out and we invited ourselves along with him.

The next evening, we found ourselves prowling down darkened alleyways in the hutongs, trying to find The Great Leap Brewing Company.  Thank goodness for Google Maps and a smartphone with GPS.  I don't know how tourists got by without them!

Next thing we know, we were sampling the very cheap brews, trading sips with each other as we picked out the most interesting of their concoctions.

Kate punctuates her very earnest beer-fueled discussion

After a few hours of conversation and beers, we decided food would be a great accompaniment to all the alcohol we had already consumed.  Unintimidated by our lack of comprehension of Mandarin, we successfully found a candied fruit and chocolate-dipped waffle vendor, then found a local food vendor. Yum!

fruit for the health-conscious lady
Sean will have one of those, thanks!
Finally ... dinner!


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