Hiking the Great Wall at Mutianyu
Hiking the Great Wall at Mutianyu
“He who has not been to the Great Wall is not a true man” – Chairman Mao
I felt it was appropriate that our day at the Great Wall receive its own blog post because….well, IT’S THE GREAT WALL!
After doing a bunch of research into the “best” part of the wall to go to, we decided on the Great Wall at Mutianyu. Badaling wasn’t even in contention because it is the most popular section and therefore most crowded part. Plus, every walkable area has been completely restored and the walk is much less of a workout than we were after. Jinshaling has more unrestored sections than Mutianyu but we decided against it because it is currently (June 2013) undergoing major restoration, so much of it is blocked. It also takes 4-5 hours to get there from central Beijing versus 1.5-2 hours for Mutianyu.
As our bus pulled up near the main gates, we could see just a little bit of the wall at the top of the mountain which made both Alyse and I smile from ear to ear. So like most tourist places in the world, you have to battle your way through vendors hawking shitty “I Climbed the Great Wall” mugs and t-shirts in order to arrive at the main gates. Just an FYI for those who buy tickets through your hostel or other group, the cable car and sled down the wall is not included but you can buy them separately. We opted to take the 2,000 stair climb to the top which to have some bragging rights to having actually climbed up to the Great Wall. Little did we know that some of the walking sections of the wall are so steep that its like climbing a ladder – climbing up the mountain may have been the easiest part! When we finally reached the wall, legs shaking, sweat pouring off of us sweating like never before, we looked up and saw one of the Seven Wonders of the World beneath our feet. It was truly surreal feeling for us both. We had to keep telling each other, “we’re walking on the Great Wall RIGHT now”.
You couldn’t wipe the smiles of our faces as we kept walking and climbing up the massive stone blocks that make up the wall. Even as we passed vendors pushing overpriced beer and General Mao hats on the wall, which typically might sully the experience a bit, we found we didn’t even notice them.
After walking all the way along the restored section we had made it to the original section where no restoration had been completed, read no side rails, uneven ground and no hoards of tourists! Looking at the rubble of former towers here and the decaying blocks of original stone made us feel like we were somewhere truly special in the world with a history so long it was hard to even fathom.
Alyse and I are really just a bunch of big kids so when we heard there was an opportunity to take sleds down from the top of the wall to the bottom we said “hells yeah!”. We got on our little sleds into a luge run (that would have never passed inspection back home) and off we sped down the track which was not only ridiculously fun but provided some fantastic views of the valley below us. We highly recommend you pay the extra money (60 Yuan) and do this if you find yourself on this section of the wall. The only complaint Alyse had afterward was, “I wish the chick in front of me would’ve grown a pair and gone faster!”.
We feel very fortunate to have walk along the Great Wall of China as we both had this one down on the old bucket list. It reminded us a little bit of standing above the Grand Canyon and peering out over the vastness of it. You know you are there, you know what you are looking at, but it feels like you are looking at a backdrop of a movie set because your eyes cannot comprehend something so large and beautiful really existing in this world. Amazing!
Ross and Alyse