Thursday, February 14, 2013

Beijing: Mutianyu (Great Wall of China)

Sunday, February 10, 2013.  7:00am

With about 2.5 hours of sleep, I groggily come into consciousness to John Mayer (again) singing to me. But when my eyes finally opened, I saw a pair of eyes in the bunk bed across the room from me looking at me with what I thought was a death stare. I hastily turned off my alarm, and got busy getting ready for my second day in Beijing.
I got a shower (which was surprisingly quite nice, for a hostel - wonderfully hot water, too) and dried my hair, slapped on a bit of makeup, and set out to meet my bus for the Great Wall. I had decided to go with this company called the Schoolhouse. It's hard to explain, but basically they offer a bus to and from Mutianyu Village (near the Great Wall) each Saturday and Sunday. It's cheaper than a taxi and they speak English, so there's no hassle with the public transportation buses. I wanted to take a taxi to meet the bus (which was on the NE corner of Beijing), but it being "New Years Day", there were no taxis to be had.

I staggered down to the subway and navigated several different subway lines til I found my correct station. Once I got out there, I had to walk a little bit to the hotel we were meeting at. I ended up being about 10 minutes late, and thankfully the bus was still there. My ankle was killing me and I was limping a bit by the time I climbed in the van. There were 6 passengers, a family of 3 that was going to stay in the Village overnight, 2 older women, and myself.

As the women started to talk, I took some aspirin and pulled out my iPad to watch Brave. Since it was New Year's Day, the roads were totally clear out of the city (usually the traffic is pretty bad). We drove down the highway for part of the way, then went onto small one lane roads. It was interesting to see the Chinese countryside. For the most part, it was ugly. Very desolate looking; lots of buildings in disrepair and everything was brown and grey (although, to be fair, it was winter time!). I think even in the midst of blooming spring it would still be quite ugly though...

We arrived at the village in what was probably record time: only around an hour. Normally I think it takes almost 2. Anyway, I made nice with the women (one lived in Beijing and the other was visiting her from the states). The one who lives here was on crutches and decided not to go to the Wall, but rather wait for her friend in the village. We had breakfast at the Schoolhouse restaurant; actually, they had breakfast and they just passed me bread under the table. They kindly understood my reluctance to pay $30 for breakfast. After eating a bit, we all walked to the Wall.

The lady who lived in China (sorry, can't remember her name!) was saying that this was the least crowded she had ever seen the entrance to the Wall. There were vendors hawking their wares, but we didn't stop on the way to the mountain. I did spy a tshirt "I Climbed the Great Wall" that I kept my eye on, for the way back.

Once we got to the ticket counter, the visiting lady (I think her name was Samantha, so we'll call her that) and I bought tickets for the ski-lift going up, and the toboggan slide coming back down. I was nervous to do the ski lift, since I am scared of them. But it was a pretty day with no wind, and I had a "friend" to help me, so I braved it.

On the way up, we saw the toboggan track below us. It was a pretty view from the lift out over the mountains and looking at the wall in front of us.

At the top of the lift, we had to choose to go left or right. Most people go left, or so I hear. It goes to the longer stretch of the Wall. However, Samantha's friend told us to go right for a steeper climb and excellent views, as well as an unrestored section of the wall. Since I really wanted to stick with another person, even if just for the sake of photos, I went with her to the right.

Let me just say that the whole thing was kind of surreal. I was standing on the GREAT WALL OF CHINA!

We walked along for a while then came to the section where it got really steep. It was certainly the steepest section of wall in Mutianyu. I had to use my hands to climb up some of the steps. It was a workout, but really cool at the same time. At each section where we could stop for a bit of a rest and water, I would look out and around and just say "wow!"

We met very few people along the way. It was a beautiful day; cold but once we had warmed up from the walking and climbing, it was a good temperature. My ankle was at a dull ache, but I managed the pain well enough. After about an hour and a half, we reached the unrestored section of the wall.

You think a sign is going to stop me from checking it out?! Nahhh...

The view in front of me as we walked into the unrestored section.

The view looking back...
We walked on for another quarter mile or so. It was really cool to be on more of a path than the actual wall, but also a bit scary! You really have to watch your footing or you're off the wall and tumbling down the side of the mountain before you know it. I'd probably not take my kids to that area...

We came to the crumbled down ruins of one of the watchtowers, and climbed ontop of the rubble. From there we had the best views yet! Since there was no wall continuing up one side, we were literally at the highest point we could be at, in that area of the wall.

We enjoyed the views for a while, had a bit of a rest, then headed back down the way we came. Although the area I climbed wasn't as long as it could have been, it was extremely steep in areas. Coming back down was rough and slow goings, especially with my twisted ankle. There was snow on parts of the steps, so we had to be mindful not to slip.

As we were heading down, I really wanted to go further and go to the other end of the Mutianyu stretch of the wall, but time was not permitting, and the pain in my ankle was getting worse. We got back down to the toboggan area and headed down.

The view of the toboggan track from the ski lift on the way up the mountain
More of the toboggan track...
The toboggan ride was really fun, but the leaver you used to go faster or slower was a bit hard to hold down in the "faster" position. The signs kept saying Slow Down, so I was afraid to go too fast! Didn't want to fly off the side of the mountain!

At the bottom, we walked through the various vendors, and I bought an umbrella (like one for the sun - more like a "parasol" for the summer) - originally she wanted 380Y and I ended up paying 100Y (probably could have gotten even lower...), an "I Climbed the Great Wall" tshirt (originally 50Y and I paid 25Y), and some dried fruit for my coworkers.

We took a little rest at the Subway (yes, Subway sandwiches) near the carpark. As soon as we got in, a big group came in behind us. They all had British accents and they were all reallllly attractive. Like, annoyingly attractive. One talked to me and at first I thought he said "we're touring, we're from Riverlands show" - I was like wait, what? Like, a TV show? Then, I realized he actually said "we're touring, a river dance show". Ahhhh....

I walked back down to the place were we were to meet our bus back to the city, and some locals were setting off random fireworks (still). One sounded like a gun, and was only a few yards away; I literally jumped when it went off!

The village was interesting, because all the homes had colorful doors (although that was the only colorful thing in the village), and they were extra decorated for Chinese New Year (I think).

Looks pretty run down, but at least there is some color!

Once on the bus home, I fell straight asleep. We arrived back in Beijing proper, and I trudged back to the hostel, completely exhausted. As soon as I got to my room, I fell into bed and took a 3 hour nap! It felt amazing. I met the roommate that hadn't met before; the one who gave me the stink eye for having a 7am alarm. Apparently, she hadn't been glaring, but complimented my alarm (thanks John Mayer!) and said she had thought "wow that's a really nice way to wake up!" Haha! We had dinner in the restaurant, and I retired once again to catch up on some much needed sleep.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Subscribe via email

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner