The Great Wall of China is what defines China. And today we were finally going to get a chance to step on to thie piece of history.
Shane and I hired a cab from the Sha Tan hotel with our new travel friends (just under $90 Cdn from central Beijing) to Mutiyanu
where a less-visited and older section of the Great Wall is. We opted to hire a cab and get there on our own instead of being crammed into a bus with other toursts and given a limited time at the Great Wall. This was one of the best decisions we made and a HIGHLY recommended way to visit the Geat Wall at your own pace.
Setting out for the approximately hour-long cab ride, our driver, though he spoke next to no English, drove along the Beijing Olympic sites and pulled the car over so we could all take pictures of the Water Cube and Bird's Nest. Working in television, Shane and I were both interested in seeing the media tower as well.
We arrived at the Great Wall at Mutiyanu and decided that 3 hours on the wall would be plenty of time for us to
explore at our own pace. In researching the trip before we left home, I discovered that there was a toboggan slide down the side of the escarpment. This suddenly became one of our "must dos" in China....but no one else seemed to think this was a good idea.
Our taxi driver tried to signal that we should take the newer, enclosed cable car up the side of the mountain instead, gesturing that the open-air and rickerty-looking chair lift was dangerous and that we would end up hurt on the toboggan. Shrugging him off, we chraged ahead and bought our tickets to the chair lift and toboggan which included mandatory "life insurance" of 1 yuan. What exactly 17 cents would get me is still unclear. According to the handy brochure, the "Beijing mutiyanu Great Wall Speed Chute Amusement Company Ltd" assured us in that this German made toboggan is of the utmost quality and "takes adwantages of different situations to accordance with the mountain path..." and wished us a "beautiful future together." I love translations.
Feeling somewhat shaky in our decision to board the chair lift, our fears were only cemented as we rounded the corner to the empty
Our taxi driver pulled over on the side of the road so we could get a shot
chair lift entrance to be greeted by our new "friend."
Laughing maniaclly and brandishing the world's largest pipe, our friend just pointed and continued to laugh and say "cable car! heh heh heh" Even the locals were laughing at our decision. Since he was so friendly, Shane asked to take a picture with him (which is now of course, prominently displayed on the wall of our living room). Without much instruction or use of the safety bar, Shane and I boarded the chair lift prepared for certain doom.
The views from the ride up the chairlift were spectacular. We could see far beyond the immeadiate surroundings to the mountains int eh distance as we got our first glimpses of the wall. It wasn't as hot at the previous day, so the view was clear, without any haze. We looked down to the steel toboggan track that looked both incredibly old and dangerous, with railings at only some of the sides.
Making it safely to the top, we forged to the right of the chair lift to the steeper and older section of the wall which was a dead end so we'd be able to turn around and
go to the other side. The wall was incredibly steep, though not as steep as I had been expecting. it was still quite a climb. We ran into a man selling water and postcards who offered to take a picture of us on the wall. Afterall, he was a "friend of Canada." He refused to accept any money in return so we bought a few postcards from him as thanks.
Some of teh steps were quite steep and I had to use my hands to crawl up. The wall was practiacally empty with only a few single tourists here and there. Lots of opportunities for photos- I think we each took over 100 pictures in less than 3 hours. Thank God for digital cameras.
After reaching the end of the wall, we were able to see the old, wild parts of the wall that were closed to tourists and were overrun with trees and grass. After taking a break to take in the 360 degree views, we headed back towards the other section of the wall which we could see was much busier as it is an easier climb with less stairs and mroe sloping ramps.
view of the mountains was beautiful and very peaceful. After spending 2 hours trekking the wall and stopping for snack breaks and photo ops, we decided it was time to try our luck with the toboggan.
No nearly as bad as we had thought it would be, we found that we actually had to sit on little plastic carts with wheels with a steering stick that controlled teh break to go faster or slower. It was actually pretty fun and really easy. Definitely worth coming to Mutiyanu for!
I had to buy an obligatory "I climbed the Great Wall" shirt (to go with my "I climbed Mt. Fuji" shirt from Japan). Afterall, if it doesn't say it on a t-shirt, it probably didn't happen.
Thoroghly exhausted, we relaxed on our taxi back to Beijing and headed to our new favourite hu tong restaurant for lunch, followed by a much needed rest. We capped the evening off with "hamburgers" at Alley Cafe- the one thing I can definitely NOT recommend there- but, since we were too exhausted to go elsewhere, it was all we were willing to do.
We did discover a new TV game show. I
have absolutely no idea what it was called and the only English in the entire show was "let's GO!" at the start of this random American Gladiators-style obstacle course. The fact that we didn't understand it made it even more hilarious- so hilarious that we watched it for 2 hours...a great end to a fantastic day.
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