Wonderful. Our best day in China at Terracotta Warriors has probably been surpassed in less than four days (although it is a close call!)
Will leave most of this to the photos that we hope to eventually put on the website, but this is a must do for any travellers reading this. As Mao said, "He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man"
The Great Wall actually only came into being once many separate walls were brought together by that man Qin Shi Huang again (the Terracotta man) 2200 years ago, but at this stage it was mostly earthen ramparts. The massive Stone brick Wall as we know it was mostly put togther in the same spots as its predecessor, and added to immensely, by the Ming Dynasty between 500-600 years ago. (The same blokes who built the Forbidden City). They were very afraid of those northern Mongol hordes who had run roughshod over, and controlled all of, China just before them. So they built a great big wall extending out over 5,000 kms protecting China from what is now Inner Mongolia and the Gobe Desert. And as we discovered this is not just a wall like Hadrians Wall in the UK going over gentle hills. This Wall goes right over very large mountains! Could you imagine the look on the faces of the workers/slaves, when the emperor ordered the Wall to be built. "You want to build a wall on that! and why!?" That was a question we asked ourselves many times as we clambered up and down over some pretty big hills upon which the wall runs, and gazing off into the distance to see the wall going even higher and higher up over mountains peaks.
We were very pleased indeed that we did the Great Wall the way we did. We booked a trip from our hotel in Beijing that took us and five others to a more isolated section called Jinshanling and then hiked over 10kms to reach a walled mountain peaks section called Simatai. This was a really fabulous journey, and we avoided the heaving crowds of Baderling - where most tourists go. Here we had only small groups of mostly foreign tourists on the wall, and we had some hassle of hawkers at each watch tower (but they were not so bad as most places in China). And we had the most amazing scenery you could imagine. Very steep green hills with the Great Wall, and its many watchtowers, snaking over them in each direction - and wonderful views out to Inner Mongolia. This is indeed one of the world's wonders.
But the hiking was really really hard work as well. The Wall at this section is very steep indeed. Sometimes it had a 70 degree gradient! And much of it is in a state or disrepair which called for added caution, as well as the good use of our hiking boots which have been a godsend on our travels. When we finally reached Simatai, we certainly felt fulfilled and thoroughly deserved our cold beer before the 120kms trip back to Beijing. All round wonderful day.