Climbing the Wall



On a Monday morning, after three hours on a bus escaping Beijing and climbing into the hills, spent a few hours at Simatai walking on the Great Wall. I was delighted that the wall really does live up to expectations, and was almost deserted, even with a cable-car providing access to the top. Walking from tower to tower, over curving, twisty sections, some perilously steep and all balanced on ridges above plummeting valleys, you feel you’re getting a pretty good sampling of ‘the wall’, or at least the Ming dynasty version of it. In spite of the long ascent, there’s still people anxious to sell you their wares – whether it be cold drinks, postcards or carved seals, but compared to other sites, they are infrequent and pleasant.


Standing on the section at Simatai, which is in a good start of repair, the expenditure of effort and lives to create the wall is brought home – the wall snakes off to the horizon in both directions, plunging down hillsides and charging up again. One surprise was how closely spaced the towers are (again, on this section) – only a few hundred metres apart, and each a substantial structure with multiple floors. I’m somewhat motivated to spend a day or two exploring Hadrian’s Wall again (not having been since childhood), by way of comparison.


The Great Wall

The weather even obliged by raining the night before, clearing to actual blue skies (escaping the Beijing smog may have been a factor as well) and holding that way for a three hour stroll, before turning back to overcast grey and rain as we boarded the bus back to the city. The first part of the road back was hindered by countless slow-moving, heavily laden trucks struggling up the inclines, and in many places broken down. This made for some exciting manoeuvres as our bus pulled out to pass a stricken lorry, only to encounter other lorries oncoming, or the driver of the broken vehicle would emerge into the road (from somewhere in the underbelly of his machine) right into our path. I would be extremely reluctant to drive any kind of vehicle in China.

Posted Thursday, July 3rd, 2008 under history, travel.

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