Climbing the Great Wall of China

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Climbing the Great Wall of China

It was raining hard as our car wound its way through the mountain passes on our way to Mutianyu, on the Great Wall. The driver took it carefully and it was easy to see why. We passed many mini rock falls or landslides on the narrow and winding road. Nothing dramatic but a small pile of rocks here. A small mound of earth and wood there.

The rain had put pay to our plans to toboggan down from the top – it closes even on slightly damp days – but we were still looking forward to the climb.

After getting our tickets we walked the short but steep pathway to the cable car, passing a myriad of small stalls selling everything from T shirts, hats and jewellery to ornaments, chop sticks and supposedly hand painted water colours (for 1 US Dollar?!).

We took the cable car up to station 14 (it cost 295 Yuan for all five of us. We paid for for one child (less than 1.3m but more than 1.1m) and 4 adults.

The rain continued to fall and the mist was closing in over the mountains as we climbed the final set of steps onto the Great Wall itself.

It was an unreal experience standing on the longest wall in the world, reputedly the work of more than 1 million people who has to transport the raw materials to the top of the mountains by hand.

We had talked endlessly about walking the wall and despite the limited view and the rain the real thing was no leas exciting.

The walk from station 14 to station 20 included sharp inclines and declines as well as many steps but it was relatively easy going. We passed many people going both ways and an elderly looking woman selling drinks.

At station 20 the rain had abated, the mist had cleared a little and we considered the task ahead. Station 23 is the last in this stretch of the wall that tourists can visit but to get to it there is a long and steep upward slope. After a short family conference the 3 children and I resolved to try and make it to the top.

It was hard going and we had to make several stops. We had mistakenly left the water with Lisa and in spite of the rain and mist we started to get very hot.

Almost at the top there is a final set of steps, each on a foot and a half high. There were only about 15 or 20 but they were the hardest.

At the top finally we paused for breath. Thankfully there is a woman selling water at the top although given the captive market the price of 25 Yuan per bottle is 5 times what we paid in Beijing. She was also selling Snicker – heaven only knows what they cost!

Unfortunately by the time we reached the top the mist had closed in again and the view, which I imagine on a clear day is spectacular was denied us. But as we returned we contented ourselves that we’d conquered part of the Great Wall.

After returning to the base by cable car you are forced to walk through a long corridor of sales people, mainly women who don’t like to take no for an answer. Kate got close to buying a silk dress, getting the price down from 380 Yuan to 120 Yuan (initially by saying no – and she meant it!). But in the end we had to back out leaving a very disgruntled woman behind.

We had more luck lower down buying a mask for Callum and a Dragon for Tom for a combined total of 100 Yuan.