Sunday, July 21, 2013


你不能来中国然后没有过去长城!You can't come to China without going to the Great Wall -- you're just robbing yourself of an amazing experience.  
Fortunately, Beijing is within periphery of many sections of the wall.  In order to avoid navigating Chinese tour buses and overwhelming crowds, I signed up with a group called Beijing Hikers.  They lead several trips every week around the city and across Mainland China that are very-well organized and rated according to difficulty.  Last Sunday I joined them for a level 3+ 'Great Wall Spur' that was an unrestored section of Mutianyu.
 I was up at 5:30 AM, on the metro to meet the group, then we rode a bus for a few hours north.  We were out trekking by 8:45.  We ascended a mountain for nearly an hour and a half through foliage that made me think we were bushwhacking through Vietnam!  The air was very heavy so I was drenched in sweat, and unfortunately the mist limited what would be incredible views.
 A small cave on the trail up that was great for a cool break.
After the trail we entered the wall through a fortress.

The wall is overgrown with years of packed dirt that has birthed its own small forest!  I was pleasantly surprised by the numerous wildflowers (giant bees and horse flies weren't that great).  

The Great Wall stretches back nearly 2,000 years, with the most recent construction between 1300-1600 during the Ming Dynasty.  I can hardly conceptualize the millions of lives, whether forced or not, that partook in the immense construction-- by hand!  It is truly a vestige of humankind.
It was fun to look back every now and then to track our progress.  Let's just say I'm glad we took this trip with the mountain first, because the rest of the wall was mainly going downhill.  Some portions were a bit treacherous, with crumbling stones and no support.

Our awesome BJ Hikers guide, Milly, explaining how different generals were in charge of building sections of the wall.  She's worked in Beijing for three or four years now, but spent years living in Nepal and guiding treks across the Himalayas-- northern Pakistan, Nepal, southern China.  She had a sharp sense of humor, great stories, and spoke English, Spanish, French, Chinese, and probably a few other languages we didn't hear.  Simply put, Milly is a professional badass (my conclusion was also affirmed when she mentioned that she played ultimate frisbee in the eighties).

We didn't hike the wall pictured here, but I just wanted to point out how absurd this hairpin construction is.  There had to have been a better way..!
I met some interesting travelers so conversation made the hike pass quickly.  We ended with a big lunch in a village before heading back to Beijing.  I wish the hike was longer, or that I had time to go to another section.  Beijing Hikers was a bit more expensive than I hoped (this is the frugal student whining), but I can't recommend their staff or trip-planning enough.  If you're hoping take more obscure nature adventures, they are the ones to work with!  For more information click here.

 嘿你好! Pants were a good idea for protection from the brush, but it was really hot.


So it's my last week in China.  I'm already behind on blogging for this past week, but I'm aiming to do some guerrilla posting through the madness of the coming days because I have more photos to post and stories to share.  Life has this tendency to move a little too quickly..
Listening:  The Nightbeds 

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