There is a saying in Beijing………If you don’t step onto the Great Wall, you are not a man. Well, I think we became men/women several times over this day. One of the things we wanted to do is climb the Great Wall and that is just what we did. First of course is a brief history of the Great Wall (entertaining and educating…….that’s what we are about). The Chinese began building the Wall in the Spring and Autumn period or 8th Century BC…….yep that’s right BC. Of course the intention was to keep out invaders from the northern part of China. The Great Wall stretches approximately 5,500 miles and consist of sections of wall, trenches, and natural hills and mountains. A lot of the Wall has been destroyed either naturally or by development. Prior to the Wall becoming a national treasure, local villages would use stones from the Wall to build their homes and roads. It has also been written you are able to see the Great Wall in outer space. I tend not to believe this for one reason……….Beijing is the most polluted city in the world. It is hard to see 3 blocks down the road let alone a wall from outer space. Our group traveled to a newly opened section of the wall in Badaling. This is an area is called the North Pass or Juyongguan Pass and is the most visited section of the Great Wall. If you feel like an adventure and want to see the wall in its more natural state, do not go to the tourist area of the Wall. The pictures most people see of the Wall are from the restored sections. The section of the Wall we visited was design to resemble a dragon, had 9 towers, and the head of the dragon and partially restored. Before beginning our climb, our guide (let me sidetrack for a moment………our guide was probably around 18 years old, taught himself English, and does this climb at least 5 times a week….the man was a machine) told us about the first section which had been destroyed between the Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Trying to conquer the Qing dynasty, the Ming dynasty tried to find the best place to invade and went to the local farmers who showed the warriors the lowest part of the Wall. You can see where the Wall was completely destroyed in this area and clearly separated into different sections. When we arrived, it was cold and misty and everyone decided to put more clothes on……..all I can say is BIG MISTAKE! Next our little guide (yes he was little but a powerhouse) told us that we would be walking up to the first tower which was completely restored. When we got to the top of the first tower, let’s just say I was physically whipped. I started thinking it would be wise to start some form of exercise program when I got back to the US but for now it was a bit too late. Our guide gathered the group together and begin a his speech………If you thought that was hard and you don’t think you can continue, go back to the bus now. Part of me said go back to the bus but thankfully the other part of me won out and said no you can finish (I was a bit mad at that part for a while till my legs just went numb then I didn’t care). Two people took him up on his offer and went back to the bus (don’t do it, seriously you will be pissed). Our group consisted of 4 to 6 marathon runners who wanted to see how fast they could get to the end (don’t do it seriously, you will be pissed). We began our trek to the next Tower and all I can say is………WOW. We got lucky because it was misting and was around 21 celsius (70 farenheit) which made the hike an experience. Looking over the side of the Wall, you can tell why the Chinese decided to build the Wall…….the Mongolian side was basically straight down about 500 to 700 feet while the Chinese side was maybe a 5 foot drop. Our visibility was really low but for me it added to the experience. Also during the hike, the Chinese army was doing military drills firing weapons which also added to the entire experience (I got a little bit deep and just tried to put myself into a different time period and began thinking it was during one of the invasions). During our hike, we only ran into two other groups; a family of three and a group of Chinese workers restoring the wall (I got a picture of them). Of course the Wall has it’s tragic parts. When building the Wall, food and water was scarce and a lot of workers died. Instead of burying the dead, the Chinese just built the wall over top of them so it is also a graveyard. Sorry to end on such a creepy note but it is worth noting. Here is my advice; if you are out of shape and hate to exercise, have back, knee or feet problems, scared of heights (Kudos to Amy for overcoming her fear), don’t like to sweat, get dirty, or scratched up, and like big crowds, do an easier part of the wall. If you like an adventure and want to have a once in a lifetime experience and no crowds, do a section of the Great Wall like we did.