The Great Wall

Early start today and as usual we had decided to forgo the tour options and try and go and see the great wall ourselves. Well the tour was going to cost us 600Yuan and we reckoned we could do it for 80Yuan and plus it’s far more exciting this way. Anyway we had a list of busses to get and we are getting a lot better at matching up symbols, plus with a little help from some helpful bus conductors we arrived at the start of our hike in about 2hrs. Not bad at all. Easy even.
As we got closer we managed to catch our first glimpses of the Great Wall. Wow what an absolutely impressive sight. There it was winding its way across the tops of the mountains and up and down their sides for miles in each direction. We were getting pretty excited and although the weather wasn’t that great (a mixture of cloud, mist and definitely smog) we were ready to set off on our hike.
After walking up through a village and then scrambling up a path we eventually got to an access point onto the wall and obviously were left with two options, turn right or left. Both involved massively steep climbs upwards. We decided on turning right and started trudging up. It was so ridiculously steep that we were glad it wasn’t raining as we wouldn’t have made it. The only saviours were that there were hardly any people around (we wouldn’t have seen a dozen on the whole hike) and that every time we stopped to catch our breath we were able to enjoy wondrous views of the wall stretching out over some beautifully green countryside.
Getting to the top gave us views of both sides of the mountain and it was fantastic to be able to stop and enjoy the moment without anyone else around. We had certainly got lucky with our choice of destination.
It’s difficult to imagine such a huge wall being built in 200BC and I know that parts have been restored but it is still very impressive as to how much remains today. It’s so high and impregnable with towers dotted all along it, some of them on top of fairly high mountains. Plus like we have mentioned before it’s so steep to climb up and down. All in all a truly magnificent sight and since neither of us were sure what to expect when we went out there we were both gobsmacked with how huge and impressive it was.
When we descended back off the wall we arrived at the edge of a small village where within two seconds the bus we needed shot by. Unfortunately it didn’t stop as we weren’t right at the bus stop, but we soon found out where we needed to be and started waiting. After about 45 mins of waiting we were getting a little frustrated but out of nowhere a car pulled over and a couple asked where we were trying to get to. Their English was slightly better than our Mandarin and we were offered a lift all the way back to Beijing, what a stroke of luck! It was a bit strange sat in the car unable to communicate but at the the end of the day we got back to Beijing and were extremely grateful. What a lovely thing for them to have done!
We were starving by the time we got back so stuffed ourselves on dumplings before heading off to the “fake” market. This was brilliant as it was a department store consisting of 6 floors of shops all divided into sections, jeans, outdoors clothes, silks, suits, handbags, trinkets etc etc. It was exactly what we were looking for as we are about to travel into some pretty chilly places and need to stock up on some more winter clothes.
The bartering and selling procedure was incredible and in the end we will only know how well we have done when we see how well the stuff lasts! The quality seems very good and we managed to pick up most of the stuff for about 10% of what they originally asked for but this included many “walk out of the shop” manoeuvres, some of which resulted in us being called back but some where we had obviously gone too low and were allowed to leave. The whole place was crazy and hopefully the stuff we bought will keep us warm on our way to London.
We finished the epic day with a beer and some hot and sour soup while people watching on the busy restaurant street near where we are staying. T

Climbing up the Great Wall.

It was truly amazing to see the wall stretching out over the mountains.

It’s a long way down!

Trying to show how steep it is.

Some of the flower displays around Beijing.  All in individual pots.

It took us a while to work out what this was for as the bike didn’t seem to be worth the two chains and padlocks, but the parking space obviously is.

The day in Beijing was the worst we have had in regards to pollution.  This is as bad as it looks.  It was a pretty gloomy experience and apparently between 2008 and 2014 Beijing only had 25 clear days!!  I have read reports and seen some evidence that there is change afoot, but this was really horrific and something really has to be done.

On a lighter note this is one of the ways they cut costs so you can buy top brand jeans cheaper!

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