It was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but in the end I did it.
I got up at 05:30am to visit the Great Wall of China.
Then it got harder.
We drove for a couple of hours out of Beijing to Mutianyu, were the crowds are quieter than those of other sections. In fact when we arrived we were the only people there.
We stopped at a kiosk to buy Chinese pancakes for breakfast. Like a normal pancake, but with egg, herbs and other bits wrapped inside it. Not the best thing I’ve ever tasted, but not the worst either. The egg put me off a little.
The majority of the group decided to hike up to the wall, whereas I took a cable car with a couple of the others. To tell the truth just the steps leading to the cable car was killing my knee and I was also made keenly aware just how much swimming I’ve missed recently.
The view from the cable car was great, and it deposited Us at tower 14. At first I found it a little difficult to catch my breath, and so I sat on one of the steps and just looked out at the wall spreading out before me.
The sight of the wall snaking its way around the mountains is simply magnificent and equals anything I have seen before. In fact, when I consider that it is man made, is surpasses all but the Grand Canyon as a vista.
I originally planned to stay around the tower 14 area and return down on the cable car as I feared that I would be unable to complete the full section of the walk through either being so unfit or my knee giving way.but I found myself edging further and further away in search of better photos as the wall snaked out in front of me.
The steps of the wall are only rivalled in number by their variety. Some are tiny drops, whilst others are knee height and it was these that gave me cause for concern.
As I made my way towards the busier end of the 3km stretch I passed the rest of the group going the other way. They had made excellent time, and I wish some of them could have the grace to look a little tired from the walk.
I told them my plan to walk the opposite down route (believe me it still has plenty of ups) and I’d see them later.
I stopped at one point, sitting on a large step and did a very poor sketch of my view. I’m going to try and take the time to sketch whilst I’m on the adventure, but I hope my efforts get better quickly.
As I was doing this, I had been passed by various tour groups and one tour leader tried to pull me along and to come with him. He kept saying bus, bus and pointing at his watch. I imagine he thought I was part if his group and thought I’d just given up trying to walk and was going to miss the return.
Towards the end, there were more ups then downs and I could feel my legs getting a bit wobbly. Then the inevitable happened and my knee just folded as it made contact with the ground on one if the knee high steps. My trailing leg took most of the brunt as the shin hit the top of the step. Perversely the hight of the steps helped me stop myself falling forward as I could grab hold of them. After looking around to see if anyone had seen, I checked myself and other than a scape and a likely bruise to follow, all was ok and I carried on.
I ended up missing the exit by quite a way and then had to climb back up where I came from. This I found difficult and it was more a case of willing myself up the slope, using the time honoured tradition of telling myself ten more steps, then ten more etc.
But I got there and then exited the wall by a ski-lift style contraption.
To a fit and healthy person, the walk would likely have been nothing. But it was pleasing to overhear a large American group saying that they couldn’t walk it, and turning back before even reaching the first tower after arriving as I reached the end.
Slow, yes. Tired, yes. Took the ’easy’ route, yes. But at least I managed it. Even if it means I’ll cry if I see another set of stairs in the next few days.