We thought Hadrian's Wall was impressive…. until we saw the Great Wall of China….
The term 'Great Wall' is something of a misnomer as there is a network of walls of varying ages all designed to provide protection from intruders. Some of these walls are 2,500 years old, but what is normally called 'the' wall was constructed in the 15th Century and 16th Century. It is a complex of walls, forts and signal stations. With a total length of some 4,000 miles it is extremely impressive.
Sections near Beijing, especially that at Badaling where all the tours go, are congested and heavily commercialised. Mutianyu is less busy than Badaling and usually combined with a trip to the Ming Tombs. We went to the quieter, well preserved section at Jinshanling about two hours drive from Beijing.
The first sight of the Great Wall from the car had us gasping in amazement as it snaked across the mountains. Closer too it got better and better. Awesome just doesn’t begin to describe it.
We parked in the car park by the (usual huge) souvenir shop. There is a cable car, which takes you up to the highest part of the Wall, but we were told you can’t walk very far once up there. We chose to follow the well made path with steps up to the wall. It is possible to walk from Jinshanling to Simatai about 10km away.
This section was first built around 1375 then rebuilt in the 1560s. The wall here has been fully restored to its original condition. It is about 15m high and 15m wide. Be warned there are lots and lots of steps. It is a roller coaster walk along the ridge with wooded mountains and steep valleys stretching as far as the eye can see.
We were accompanied up the footpath by an old couple who were trying to act as unofficial guides. Ignoring them didn’t make any difference. We didn’t succeed in losing them until we reached a small shed on the wall serving refreshments. We had the wall to ourselves – apart from passing a noisy group of happy Chinese going the other way.
This was a very well worth while trip – we loved it.