Beijing Day 3 and hiking on the Great Wall

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May 3rd 2015
Published: May 9th 2015
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Day2 Beijing City and Day 3 Hiking on the Great Wall
As we had tedious day ahead (hiking on the Great Wall) we tried to keep the city tour to the minimum. Tessa, Ryan and Alex came in the morning and picked me up from the Hotel. We travelled by underground most of the time afterwards. Like most "undergrounds" it was easy to navigate once you got the hang of the different gates that exited to different streets or you had an help to help you with. As Tessa had not been to the Temple of Heaven and I did not mind another trip there we went there first. Next to the Lama temple which had some gorgeous buildings rivalling even the ones I had seen earlier. This was an active temple and worshippers were burning incense for favours. Even after more than 60 years of communist rule which only promotes factual detail people still seem to be clinging on to their traditional beliefs and faiths. The temple also had extensive grounds full of trees and other smaller temples.
From the Lama Temple we went to get some lunch and decided to check out some of the famous Hutongs in Beijing. If I thought the tourist areas were overcrowded I was in for a surprise. These tiny alleys were jam packed with young people (did not see many oldies around) with small shops on both sides selling everything from food to jewellery to artefacts to electronics. After the long walk which lasted almost 3 hours we went to an authentic restaurant which was renowned for their Pecking Duck. I managed everything with the chop sticks. The food was delicious and the eating was slow. After that we headed back home, again using the metro. Only later Alex told me that we had walked 19K that day.
Hiking the Great Wall
Alex had given me directions how to get to our meeting point in the morning using the metro and I started the day four getting there on time. The tour bus was waiting and we started to our section of the wall for a 8 Kilometer hike on the wall. Unexpectedly we did not encounter much traffic and reached our start point before 1100hrs. Alex had picked this section of the wall at Gubeikou as it was not frequented by locals from Beijing. It was it was a lot further than the other two tourist sections, Mutiyanyu, Bedaling or even Jinshaling. The first two were restored fully or partially and looked good but Gubeikou section of the wall was untouched and appears to be preserved in its natural state. Apart from the length of the wall, some full 1800 miles, it was really was an impenetrable fort. The Great Wall is made of bricks on the outer and inner surfaces and mud between them. Created at different periods as the protection needs varied and different sections even branched. It was never in a straight line and not even at the optimum location as building ease was concerned. That it withstood the test of time is testament to the wall’s builder’s ingenuity and simple techniques used. The part we visited had collapsed in parts (Mao asked his people to use the bricks to build homes in an effort to wipe all things old and bad). In places at the top of the wall it was only a couple of feet in width. It was still very high from the base and one had to be very careful when negotiating these stretches as a good gust of wind would catch you of balance
We started the climb to the wall around 1100hrs and gained 300 meters in less than half an hour. This was perhaps the hardest climb. Once on the Wall initially there was a lot more climbing, this time by steps. Once we gained height the climbs were broken with level stretches and step downs, the Wall following the contour of the terrain. Once we were on the wall often there were steps and where the wall was damaged there were only slopes. Even after getting on the wall it was another steep climb for nearly an hour. From then on there were regular ups and downs. After the Machu Picchu trek I never wanted to climb steps again. But, there was no escape as otherwise there was no trek and we had to return to the tour bus and wait until the trek was finished. I found it hard going in the beginning, and had to stop a few times to get my breath back. Alex had trekking poles and even though I found them clumsy and getting in the way at first as I got used them they were of great help. In particular when climbing steps, coming down and when negotiating a narrow ledge in the wind they were invaluable. As Alex said aptly "now you have four legs". We finished the trek around 1400hrs, had lunch and returned to Beijing.
Being the last day of the holidays we expected the roads to be busy, but traffic jams started around 40km from the center. The coach driver had to take detour after detour to get us back the train station. I took the train back to hotel, arranged the car to pick me up at 0500hrs and printed out the Tibet Travel Permit. Went to bed after having a preparation of aubergin which was delicious.


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