Monday, 14 April 2014

... Crouch With Tigers, Hide With Dragons: Great Calves of Fire!

I first awoke after about 4 hours sleep then dozed on and off for about another 2. Let's hope the jet lag Gods are going to be kind. I had to be up by 6am anyway as today was a trip out to the Great Wall of China. That insane alarm call might suggest I was going to look at all of it, but thankfully no. Instead it was an approximately 2hr 70km drive out of Beijing to Mutinyu. I'm guessing it takes that long because you have to deal with Beijing rush hour traffic.

Mutinyu has some of the most intact stretch of the Great Wall. In fact, despite much restoration work, huge parts of the Wall are merely rubble and so around Beijing is the best place to view it in somewhat of its former glory.

There are one of 3 ways to actually access the wall itself at Mutinyu: by cable car or by walking up to one of several of the gates. There are one of 3 ways to come down the mountain: cable car, walk or, rather incredulously, by a fairground-esque version of a toboggan. No thanks, I haven't come all this way to visit one of my bucket list items to ride a toboggan.

Instead I walked. Then walked some more. And a little bit more. I think my calves hate me. I felt like I'd walked the thing in high heels. I made my way up to Gate 8 and then walked along the wall to Gate 23 and back again. Now bear in mind this is all on top of a ridge. And it is in no way flat. It was like being on an extreme stair master. I got there around 9am before all the crowds and so managed to get some great people-less photos as well as one heck of a workout. A lot of people headed up by cable car and so the congestion at least seems to start around gate 14.

Dating back at least 2000 years, the Great Wall stretches for an estimated 8851km weaving its way from the border of North Korea to the western province of Xinjiang. It was originally built as a line of defense against Mongolia. Having hiked up and down a stretch of it I'm somewhat perplexed as to why anyone would want to invest the energy in trying to invade! That said, the irony is it rarely stopped invaders due to the fact it was never one continuous structure. Gaps enabled Genghis Khan to basically ride in to take Beijing in 1215.

Despite the visibility being somewhat poor due to the haze it soon reached about 24 deg C. Take plenty of water with you as you will need it. If you forget there are sellers along the way who will try and persuade you to buy beer over water/soft drinks. I settled for a Popsicle. Also ladies, don't wear a skirt! Please! For the sake of our eyes. What has been seen cannot be unseen. You will also hear planes above as I believe it might be on the flight path to PEK, not that you could see any. Still, it made me wonder if perhaps I flew in over it the other day.

The Great Wall is truly a mystical sight to see. However, here you merely get what I suspect is just a glimpse of its vastness but it still manages to give you a sense of power. It will also make you decide to order that second banana pancake at the bottom where all the little stalls are absolutely guilt free! (They even do chocolate if you really want to refuel!)

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