The Great Wall Sure is Great

It sure is a great wall. ~Richard Nixon

I’m inclined to agree with the president. The great wall was amazing, truly worthy of its title and its membership in the seven wonders of the world. A big thanks to Ting at Tings Tours for an outstanding tour. Visit the website for some great photos of the wall in the beautiful, lush Spring and Summer. As you can see in my photos, it is definately still Winter!

The Great Wall is enormous, stretching some 600 kilometers across Northern China. There are a few areas, close to Beijing, that have been reconstructed for tourists. I haven’t been to that part, although I’ve heard it is amazing, too, but really crowded with tour groups and souvenir hawkers. We chose to go to a part of the wall that is untouched, unrenovated, practically in ruins. Very few people go there because it is more difficult to get to. I’m not even sure it is officially open. There were only a handful of tourists here, so it was completely peaceful.

It is breathtaking – literally! You must walk up a steep incline, twisting and turning up the hillside to reach the ruins. I thought I was gonna die for a few seconds. (And American T, if you are reading this – you weren’t joking about the incline, it’s ridiculous! I’m sorry we teased you about being out of shape.) But when you emerge, out of the underbrush and trees, and see the spectacular view of the valley below, the clear blue sky overhead and the ruins perched precariously along the summits of the hills and mountains, for as far as you can see into the distance, all you can do is stand there with  your mouth open and say WOW. And then you immediately find a rock to sit on to catch your breath.

The valley below

On our way up to the Great Wall, we drove up a windy little road past many new hotels and resort areas. Seems that this area is very popular among the newly wealthy Beijingers who want to get away to the clean air of the mountains for the weekend. Mostly it is popular among Chinese. The Western tourists are still very rare in this area. We also passed many small villages, which appeared to be quite old. They still had the old courtyard style houses, with gray tile sloping roofs. We saw many old men working in the fields, carrying bundles of sticks, and generally fixing things up after the winter.

What was most incredible to us, after being in Shijiazhuang with smelly, smoky air, was the refreshing quality of the air. It was like clear spring water, you just couldn’t get enough of it. We could see for miles. Several jets past over us, many miles up, but they seemed so close we could reach out and touch them. I could have stayed there all day. Especially since I really didn’t want to descend that slippery little goat path back down!!

Me among the ruins of a guard tower.

That’s the beginning of the trail up to the wall. The boxy thing up top is a guard tower. Doesn’t look that steep or far, right? Yeah, that is what we thought. The blue sign you see in the distance says, “It is everyone’s responsibility to keep the Great Wall clean (or something like that). The Great Wall is closed for reconstruction.” I don’t know if it is closed or not, but it sure welcomed us.

See more photos at Flickr!


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