I don’t know about seeing it from space but from where I am standing the Great Wall of China stretches for kilometres in both directions. Some is in good nick and open to the tramping public and some is shut in need of restoration. Regardless, it is a mighty impressive sight as it follows of the contours of the craggy mountain range into the distance. The Great Wall, like Peru’s Machu Picchu is one of those structures that really makes you pause for thought.
We are at the Mutianya section of the Great Wall in Beijing’s Huairou District. It was built in 1404 and then renovated in 1983 and opened to the public in 1988. It is a two and a half hour drive from down town Beijing, 70kms away.
We have opted to stay locally rather than in Beijing and James has tracked down a cute little B&B in Bohai town just five kms from the Wall. The manager of the B&B is used to her guests wanting to go to the Wall and she has quite a selection of different parts to visit, either on foot, on bike or with the aid of the local taxi driver. We choose a mixture of taxi driver and walking.
The walk up isn’t for the faint hearted but once I catch my first glimpse of the Wall, I get that precious second wind. There is a cable car ride up and a toboggan ride down for those who do not want to tackle the numerous stairs. The walk is peppered with plenty of places to stop and admire the view; really I should be honest and say plenty of places to stop for a breather and even a sit down!
This Mutianya section of the Wall has a good selection of watchtowers all beautifully restored, as are the battlements topping the walls either side. The walkway is wide and there is ample room to loose the other tourists. We have no trouble finding quiet little stretches to lean out between the battlements and take photographs or ponder on how on earth it was built.
After the thrill of the Wall, we manage to get a bit lost on our walk back to the B&B. We turn the wrong way and end up miles from home. James completely undeterred by the fact they can’t speak English, enlists the help of some workmen, who happily down tools and come to our aid. One of them takes us along to a bus stop, shows our B&B card to a lady in the queue, who then runs across the road waving frantically to a bus. She shows the bus driver the card and after much rapid Chinese we are waved onto the bus.
After a short journey, in the opposite direction, we recognise our little village. The driver stops and opens the door for us with a big smile. I do get the feeling he will be amusing his wife tonight with a funny story of two lost Aussies on his bus!
A fun ending to a truly great day spent exploring the Great Wall.
Tips for visiting the Great Wall:
If you only want to see the Great Wall, and not Beijing (like us) you can stay in a village close to the Wall and save yourself 5 hours traveling back and forth to Beijing. James found our B&B by googling “B&B near the Great Wall”. Our B&B in Bohai Town was called HY Little Yard, which was managed by a Mongolian lady who spoke excellent English. It is a simple little village B&B, but we loved it, it was clean, the rooms ensuite and the food was absolutely delicious! Breakfast was included and we opted to have dinner there every night. This was a bit of a no brainer really as the only restaurant we found locally was strictly a Chinese affair, no English menu, not even a picture menu!
There were no ATMs in the area and we ran a bit low on cash, so make sure the B&B you stay in will accept credit cards (Little Yard didn’t!) and make sure you have enough Yuan for taxis, entrances fees etc. If you can, take a packed lunch and water when you go on the Wall because the price of everything on the Wall is three times the normal price!