Today was an exciting day, and opened with a nice drive outside of Beijing to the Mutianyu stretch of the Great Wall. This takes about 2 hours. And, once you leave the city, I thought it became very nice. Open fields, greenhouses with trees and flowers, and, as you get closer to the Wall, the mountains creep up, and trees are everywhere. My driver, a nice old man named Mr. Wang, added to the enjoyment of this, with his terrifying speed at times, but also his ability to always avoid a horrible death!
I specifically decided on this part of the Wall because it is still relatively quiet and underdeveloped, especially if you go in the early morning, before the tourist hordes come. I think we got there at around 9:30ish, and I was pretty much alone on the Wall. The way up itself was nice – you take a gondola to the top, which drops you within walking distance of this very steep portion of the Wall.
In fact, from a distance, the Wall looks downright terrifying to walk. The path twists up at an almost unnatural slant, shooting straight up a cliff-side. But, what’s interesting is how this is all so deceptive. Yes, it is steep at times, but the more you walk the more the terror of the steepness goes away, and you realize that the angle is fitting given your environment. It makes sense that, being a defensive wall, it is more intimidating to those not yet on it, rather than those walking along it.
There are also other little details that I think you only can notice and appreciate if you are actually here at the Wall. There were a lot of butterflies I noticed, white ones in pairs. Every now and then they would fly across your path. Also noticeable is the wonderful smells coming off the trees that branch over the Wall at times. And, the great watch towers, and how some are very big inside, with arches, and steep ladders that you have to climb on either up to the roof, or even to get back on the path. I also for one enjoyed the great views, and especially the ruggedness of the mountain range. It really is imposing, and offers such sweeping views over the entire countryside.
I ultimately made it half way up that massive climb up the cliff in the distance, and had to turn around in order to make it back in time to have Mr. Wang drive me back to Beijing in the afternoon. It has slowly turned rainy and cloudy, which is nice because it has been so hot.
Tomorrow I stick in town, with Mr. Wang again picking me up in the morning.