So we made it to Beijing! Our final destination in China.
These last few weeks, travelling north through this expansive land, was all about The Great Wall, I mean you can’t be in China without seeing one of the world’s wonders right? Even if it takes 2 weeks, 2 trains and 2 planes to get here – right?
I had to laugh when my Mum said to me, (while we were staying in Yangshuo)
‘You ARE going to see The Great Wall aren’t you?’…
… ‘Mum, that’s like telling you, a West Aussie, that you really need to go and check out the Sydney Opera House.’
It’s a big, BIG place this one, just like my home country, and from Yangshuo to Beijing is a long, long way. BUT with all of that said, and jokes aside, yes – we did need to get to The Wall, and that we did!
It was planned for day 2 of our time in Beijing. I had prepared us all for a chilly day, all reports told me to expect under 10 degrees, with the possibility of icy cold, bone chilling winds. We were bundled up with thermals, jumpers, jackets, gloves beanies and scarves, yep – minus the thermos with steaming hot chocolate – we were ready!
I had arranged a private driver and guide for the day, I wasn’t taking any chances on this day being less than perfect!
We all woke early, put on our layers, had our breakfast, and headed out the door of our quaint little hotel. It seemed the Gods were shining down on us on our special “Great Wall’ day. Rather than the grey smoggy days that we had been experiencing we were greeted by an incredibly golden sun, and clear clear blue skies. Now, that might seem like a normal day anywhere else in the world but here in China, especially Beijing, that’s nothing short of a miracle! Liam and I couldn’t believe our luck and even our driver was grinning from ear to ear, standing proudly beside his car with his hands up in the air. And the day just got better and better, that glorious sun and the beautiful blue skies followed us around all day, throughout our whole Great Wall exploration. Brilliant photo opportunities abound, and we were all a whole lot lighter without the 10 layers of clothing that I had planned on!
There are numerous parts of The Wall that you can choose to visit and discover. They range from the more ‘family friendly’ ones to the more adventurous parts. There are some sections of The Wall that are really well restored with easy access and some sections that are still piles of rubble and a little off the beaten track. Of course my adventurous spirit wanted us to go to the most raw and untouched part of The Wall, I even looked at the option of camping overnight in a tent and waking up to the sun rising over The Great Wall. Sounds awesome right? Hmmmmm seems that option isn’t available in winter (go figure!) so we opted for the most ‘family friendly’ section. My parenting side was high fiving and yelling ‘hallelujah’ while my intrepid traveler was screaming deep inside!
We chose an area of the wall that was located in Mutianyu, not only due to its close proximity to Beijing, only 1 hours drive, but because there was the option of taking a cable car up to a certain point, walking the remainder few hundred steps to the highest watch tower, then riding a toboggan down. This option not only made sense from the ‘fun-factor’ side of things (cable car up, toboggan down, wheeeee!) but also cut out the hard yards of uphill trekking, again it makes perfect sense when travelling with little people. It was a good option.
Those first few steps on The Great Wall of China took my breath away. It was a moment in time that will be etched in my memory forever. I’m not sure if it was the warm sun on my face … the fact that we were at the end of our ‘China’ chapter … my handsome husband by my side … or seeing our 2 beautiful children skipping along The Great Wall, as excited to be here as we were … I’m not sure, but whatever it was, I felt 10 feet tall – the luckiest girl alive.
So, we took the advice of our guide and tackled the few hundred steps to the first Watchtower, amazing! We then took further advice from our guide and side stepped the ‘Do Not Enter’ sign to venture into the unknown – yes, my adventurous spirit was singing again. We spent the best part of the day walking along this un-restored section, feeling like true intrepid adventurers and naughty little children alike! It was just fantastic!
The Wall rose and fell at our feet, the scrub sometimes dense sometimes barren. We walked and walked and discovered several watchtowers that were just mounds of rubble with crumbling walls that led us to deep dark cellar-like chambers.
We were alone out here, we had managed to shake off the hoards of tourists (save the few other rebels that followed in our steps!) and it felt awesome.
The Great Wall was our destination, it was the end of our China experience, the big finale – it didn’t disappoint. I’m so glad that we made this trip, and The Great Wall was the perfect way to say ‘seeya’ to this big and incredibly diverse country.