This was the day we were really looking forward to,our trip to the Great Wall was something we had begun discussing when first formulating the trip! It is of course a must see destination on any trip to China. As you already know from part I of the story, we were in Beijing during the October National Holiday, which means the crowds would be thick. Because of the size (5,500 miles), there are many different parts of the Great Wall to see and explore, we knew that with only one day we could probably only see one section and wanted to make sure it was great.
There are a few really popular spots that we learned about such as Badaling and Mutianyu, we were considering those when I learned about a great company called Beijing hikers (www.beijinghikers.com ). It just so happens that they do a weekly trip to the Gubeikou section of the wall. This was perfect, they rated it a 3 of 5 for difficulty and we would spend 3 or 4 hours hiking right along the wall from tower to tower. We met up with the bus about 8am, grabbed some coffee and we were on our way. The drive was about 2 hours and we arrived at a small farming village where we prepared for our hike. The company was well prepared with 3 guides, medical emergency equipment, walking sticks and 2-way radios. We started up a steep climb and within 20 minutes we had reached the ridge of the mountain. It was then realized that we were standing on top of the wall...so cool! It took a few minutes to set in but as I looked around I could see the wall trailing off in both directions, just going for miles and miles, it was amazing. We felt so fortunate to have arrived a on relatively clear day.
The group dispersed as we walked along at our own pace. This portion of the wall we walked along was left almost completely in original form. In some sections the wall was high above the ground while other portions had almost completely disintegrated. There were watch towers every so often, most were completely original with only two having been restored. We rested and ate snacks at one of the towers before completing a steep walk up to the final tower of our hike.
Rather than returning to our starting point we followed a split in the trail back to a small village. The guides had arranged lunch for us at the a local restaurant, the only restaurant in town. It included all you can eat food and all you can drink watered down beer. Unfortunately, one of our fellow hikers had slipped on the way down and twisted her ankle. The paramedics were called to assist in extracting her from the trail. This added another hour or two to the trip but fortunately it was only an ankle.
A couple of hours later we were back at the hotel and ready for a nice western meal at Pizza Hut which marked the end of our trip to Beijing! The next morning we were back on the train to Shanghai for one night of rest and then a bus/boat ride to Putuoshan island. Stay tuned for Part III !