Walking the Great Wall

Trip Start Jun 04, 2005
Trip End Apr 05, 2006

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Tuesday, June 7, 2005

Tuesday 7 June:

On the coach at 6.30am this morning for a day visit to one of the world's great man-made wonders: the Great Wall. Drove about an hour, approximately 80 miles from Beijing, to Simatai, a less frequently visited section of the Wall which offers some challenging day walking and amazing views.

Our first glimpse of the wall from the car park made us gasp - running like a spine along the ridge of the mountain, it dominates the landscape. We hiked about 30mins uphill to get onto the wall, and then walked along it for another hour or so, getting a good close-up look at this ancient marvel of engineering. Unfortunately the weather was hazy, which meant we didn't quite get the distant views, however the haze seemed to add to the mystique of the place.

Some quick stats and facts about the Wall: it stretches about 6,000km from north-east to south-west. Construction started about 2,000 years ago with the purpose of providing a barrier between the nascent Chinese empire and the 'barbarians' to the west, as well as providing a transport link (a carriageway runs on top of the wall). The massive construction project was consolidated under the Ming dynasty in the 14th century.

Only a small part of the section at Simatai has been restored, so in places it was reduced to a mere ruin. The walking was sweaty work in the warm and humid weather, so we had plenty excuses for long breaks to take in the magnificent scenery of the surrounding mountains and small villages nestling in valleys far below.

On the way down, quite a few of us opted for the adventurous route - a zip-wire (or foefie-slide, to you South Africans) which ran from just below a lower section of the Wall over a lake. Both Rich and I literally leapt at the chance to whizz down a kilometre or so of wire, ito thin air and over the water. Super fun!

Back in beijing after our wonderful day outing, we took in another cultural show - a Kungfu performance. Called 'The Legend of Kungfu' it used a combination of classical ballet, acrobatics and kungfu to tell a romantic story. The set and costumes were magnificent, and the choreography incredibly slique. And, unlike the Opera, the music was bearable, even pleasant, to our Western ears!
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