A few days ago I returned from a 12 day trip to China. It was another group trip, with a lovely group of people whom I had never met before.
We all met on the first evening, after a long flight from the UK. The first thing we did as a group was go out to dinner with our Chinese tour guide, and that first dinner set the tone for future dinners – it was truly delicious. The food was definitely one of the reasons I think a number of us chose to travel to China, and at no point were we disappointed.
The next morning we awoke ready for our trip to the Great Wall, ready to fulfill a dream! We were going to a section of the wall known as Mutianyu – there are actually several sections near Beijing that you can visit, and Mutianyu is meant to be less crowded than some of the others. It has been beautifully restored and is set in some glorious mountain scenery.
Getting there took at least 2 hours, as it is about 43 miles from Beijing, and we had to battle the Beijing traffic to get out of the city. When we arrived we had the choice of 2 ways to get to the wall – you can’t just get out of the coach and immediately start walking on the wall. You have to actually go up the mountainside to walk on it. So, you can either walk up to the wall, or you can take the cable car. Most of us chose the cable car – it really is up the mountain and it was already hot and it wasn’t even lunchtime yet. However even getting to the cable car involved walking up a hill! There was no avoiding the uphill walking.
When you get out of the cable car, you are near to one of the watch towers but there is a short uphill walk to actually get to the wall. When we got to the wall it was crowded at the first watch tower. I actually think some people get the cable car up, walk around for 10 minutes and then get the cable car back down, without going any further. Fortunately, as you walk away from that first watch tower the crowds thin out.
We spent a couple of hours on the wall, walking along it, admiring the views of the countryside, which is truly stunning. The wall itself is also a thing of beauty. I had been worried that it woud be really crowded as I have seen photos of the crowds standing shoulder to shoulder, but it wasn’t like that.
Our main problem was actually the heat. Beijing was unseasonably hot, at least 30 degrees C, and with the stone also reflecting the sun it was hot on the wall, with limited shade. The only shade on offer was at the watch towers, so they were busy with people enjoying the respite from the sun. There was even a nice breeze if you stood in just the right place.
It’s also not actually an easy stroll. There are numerous steps to walk up and down, some areas of the wall have slopes that you could slip on, and underfoot the stone is uneven. You need to pay attention. To be honest, at times I think I was so focused on staying upright I didn’t really look around me and wasn’t able to fully appreciate that I was on The Great Wall of China.
But, there you have it – photographic evidence of my hot sweaty self on the wall!
But it wasn’t all bad. At times the going wasn’t too hard, there really weren’t that many people up there, and we had the chance to chat and start to get to know our fellow travellers. And the views, when we looked around us were breathtaking.
There are 2 ways to come down of the wall. One is to walk down, the other is take the tobogan. I have a friend who took the tobogan when she visited the Great Wall a few years ago, and she loved it. Sadly I completely forgot it was an option as we came to the steps first. We did see the tobogan and it looked like fun, but it would have required walking further on the wall. The steps gave us a chance to walk in the shade for a while.
For lunch we went to a local restaurant where we were served freshly cooked and very delicious food. Then it was time to return to Beijing for a much needed shower.