I wish I could say waking up to the sunrise on the Great Wall was a beautiful sight, but to be honest, we just couldn’t see much in the mist. The first order of business was packing up the camping gear with a local woman who came to take care of most of it for us. As everything got put away, J-Mar decided it was an appropriate time to mention that he had seen a scorpion the night before while we were getting settled in. Rob laughed a bit and said he had seen it too. Ever so calm, they justified withholding such important information by insisting it would have caused unnecessary panic. A little warning to zip up our tents and turn our shoes over would have been nice, though. I can’t imagine they would have felt justified if someone had been stung!
We put away our exaggerated outrage and reproach so we could get going on the trail again. We had to hike down from the wall and meet the van so the driver could take us to the next section of the wall for Day Two. We would start again at an unrestored area called Jiankou and work our way toward a more touristy area of the wall by afternoon.
Once again we had to hike through a bit of mountainous area to get up to the portion of the wall we’d be walking, as these sections are not visited by most tourists, so there isn’t a clear or easy path up to them. I’d trade clear and easy path for awesome scenery any day.
The very first part of the wall we made it to on this second day was just stunning. We climbed up the side of the wall to a little platform area, and as each of us made our way up, we started ogling over the view. Then, we climbed a wooden ladder that boosted us up even higher, and the ogling was just amplified. The “mist” makes it really hard to see in photographs, but this time it was rapidly moving clouds, not air pollution. I wish my photography and editing skills could better capture the steep undulation of the wall at this particular viewpoint. While we snapped some photos, we enjoyed some fresh-cracked walnuts as a snack from some random guy who sits on the wall and cracks walnuts for people.
The Jiankou section pictured here is famous for being super steep and dangerous yet extremely beautiful. This section was constructed mainly during the Ming Dynasty in the 1300s. I’ll say it again: I really wish you could see the incredible view a bit better, but I guess you’re stuck with our cheesy faces.
I really enjoyed the second day’s hike because we gradually worked our way from rugged and unrestored Jiankou to the more popular, restored section of Mutianyu. Nothing really beats the unrestored stuff – I could look at that all day, but it was really interesting to be able to compare the two. My favorite landscapes are still ones like these:
That photo above is supposed to have Lara’s love, Brian’s face Photoshopped onto Jeff’s body. To bad he had to work that weekend and couldn’t make it; he missed a lot of laughs about Lara’s “mysterious man”. Later when I was going through photos, I laughed again when I realized I must have been walking behind Lara the whole time. Good thing she’s a good sport and loves to have her photo taken so she can throw the kimchi sign!
I promise I took photos of other people too.
And other cool sights.
We gradually began seeing more in-tact sections of the wall, along with more tourists. To give you an idea about what most tourists see versus what the Great Wall actually encompasses, the combined length of the two sections officially open to tourists is 10 kilometers. Granted, on our first day, we walked an unrestored portion of the wall that is not a paid tourist attraction, but that’s beside the point.
Ten, one-zero, out of tens of thousands of kilometers of the wall are restored to their glory. I read that the government is working on another 12 kilometer section of the wall with a budget of 1.5 million, but that sounds like a steal. And would still only make a total of 22 kilometers restored. Can you imagine the restoration and maintenance cost for the entire length of this thing?
Images like these make it hard to not love the restored sections too. One thing I can say I didn’t love were some of the dangerous stairs…
All along the wall, not just at the guard towers, but to keep up with the crazy terrain, there were massive, steep sets of stairs, sometimes pretty dangerous to climb on.
Being at one of the most photographed landmarks in the world, we obviously took every opportunity to pose for quirky group photos. J-Mar was insistent upon trying the “lean” photo as much as possible, so we did it no less than 8,000 times during the day. At first I thought it was super lame, but it actually turned out to be pretty cool.
Then there was, once again, the poorly timed jump photo extravaganza…
But J-Mar and Jack got us all wrangled together, finally:
And it seems to be easier with two people.
When we finally called it quits with the silliness, it was time to make our way down again.
Now that I’ve exhausted everyone’s eyeballs with 600 photos of the Great Wall, would you be mad if I said it wasn’t even my favorite part of the trip? Just kidding, it was really great, and certainly the highlight of our five days in China, but taking a toboggan ride down from the wall to the parking area is right up there with it.
The only shot I managed to take was of the seats on the metal tube track because, as with a lot of places in Asia, we were being rapidly shuffled through the line and photo-taking wasn’t allowed on the ride. Hyperlapse GoPro footage would have been awesome! Sadly, you’ll have to deal with what I was able to capture (again mostly clouded by mist) during our two day adventure – have mercy on my terrible, terrible video, this will have to do for right now. Maybe if I start planning more in advance I’ll get some better footage one of these days!