The Great Wall : 'We'll huff and we'll puff and we'll blow that wall down!'
Beijing Travel Blog› entry 168 of 268 › view all entries
Okay time for the big one. And time to get away from this city! Itâs still the weekend and Stevie needs to escape the Beijing masses. Maybe heâll be safer behind, or from atop the defences of a wall. Wanli Changcheng. âThe Long Wall of 10,000â. The Great Wall of China!
Yes, of all destinations in China I guess this is Number One on most peoples âMust Doâ list and I am glad to beat a retreat to it today. Consequent to its popularity dithering and indecision about which stretch of it to choose to visit preoccupies a good 70% of traveller discourse when staying in Beijing. Hey, thereâs a lot of it. In the region of 5,500 miles (8,850kms) worth in various states of repair or concealment are now known to date, stretching from the Eastern shoreline of China as far as the Gobi desert.
Traumatised and fatigued by the Beijing crowds yesterday my will to think outside the box on logistics has been annihilated for the time being so I am happy to hand over my body and 220RMB ($32, this actually is a reasonable price, includes lunch) to the gang at Leo Hostel to go along on their âSecret Wallâ day trip. Yes, there are a good number of stretches of the wall accessible to tourists within varying distances (an hour, maybe two or three) from Beijing of which the most famous are Badaling and Simatai. Most of those trumpeted for the purposes of tourism and photography and so best served by travel agents and logistical connections are heavily reconstructed sections of the wall and veritably swarm with tourists at all times.
So a small mini-van of about 10 of us set off from Leo to the so-called âSecret Wallâ. So secret, Iâm sorry I have no clue and no means of imparting its location to you. And the staff at Leo might shoot me if I did! :) Stopping in a small village on the way an ancient but bubbly old boy dressed in his traditional blue âMao Capâ and jacket hops aboard. Our guide to The Great Wall of China. In the only bit of successful dialogue that will pass between our group and this chipper little chap all day ( âNi jiao shenme mingzi?â ) I am able to ascertain for us his name as Zin Xian. Our first humorous interaction with him as we ascend a small winding path into beautiful green vegetation swamped hill scenery is his attempts to motion to us âtoilet stopâ pointing to a large boulder for the purposes of saving one and allâs blushes.
I absolutely love my two or three hours strolling along this section of the Great Wall. It perfect acquiesces to all of our hopes of stupendous pragmatic architectural grandeur and romantic visions of brick and mortar wreathing over the hill top ridge line as faaaaar as the eyes can seeâŚ whilst having it as a totally private experience. No sh*t. No word of a lie. No envy-inciting exaggeration. Itâs a weekend day. Weâre on the Great Wall of China but in all of our 2-3 hours strolling along it we will see the grand total of 4 other human beings outside of our small group.
This is the wall as History and Time and their attendant ravages and neglects; the beautiful forms of Natureâs erosions and embraces intends.
What not a single one of my photos can illustrate to you the viewer is the absolutely phenomenal winds that attended our wall top stroll today! I mean Big Bad Wolf winds of the most incredible force. If windy at hill bottom, once up on the wall-draped ridgeline the gusting force battered us all and the frail looking but sturdy-as-iron frame of cap-clutching Zin Xiao all the way with gale-force gusto. Grit and dust being hurtled through the air. Desperate attempts to take much desired photos (the most sought after from oneâs time in China perhaps?) without getting half the landscape stuck in your lens cavity. I was quite literally blown over, off my feet, on several occasions. Which is slightly scary given the rugged, rubble-strewn, often protectionless stretches of high wall that we are staggering along today.
But despite the occasionally terrifying physical conditions imparted by the gale, I f**king love it! It adds such a fabulous sense of drama to the proceedings. The Great Wall. The Great Winds. Battering what remains of its ancient conflict and nature battered form.
As we wend our way up, down and along the âSecret Wallâ I do not want it to end. And as far as the eye can tell it doesnât, snaking away in its iconic way long, long hills into the distance.
We reluctantly dismount the wall, following Zin Xiaoâs lead down the path in the end. All good things must come to one of those. Lunch together. Good cheer. The mini-van back to Beijing and Leo. I strongly, strongly recommend the Leo Hostel âSecret Wallâ trip if you want a little mystery, a little privacy and unsullied photos of its bricks ânâ mortar majesty. You can pop along pay and go with them as a non-staying guest. For now Iâm off to get me a big fat greasy plate of traditional âPeking Duckâ. A whole duck! I've walked up quite an appetite in my tussle with the winds.
* Title of a very interesting Iain Banks novel.