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Great Wall of China: Rediscovering Calf Muscles at Mutianyu

And Admiring Other People's at Beijing's Acrobat Show

sunny 27 °C

With regret we must admit that we will spend the next two weeks as part of a group. As far as possible, we wanted our travels to be independent, but joining a group for the next phase eased several logistical challenges: namely the legwork associated with securing (i) a Tibet visitor permit and (ii) tickets for the Beijing-to-Lhasa train. This high-altitude train only opened last year, and it is notoriously difficult to get tickets. So, by joining a group, we saved ourselves the several days and uncertainty associated with these key elements of our adventure. Also (and this is for the Mothers…!), it means we’ll be ‘supervised’ as we tackle some seriously high altitudes through Tibet and to Everest Base Camp where a group will - we hope! - enjoy greater support than two individuals.


So – this is how we found ourselves heading out of Beijing early this morning as part of a (horror!) group to visit the Great Wall of China at Mutianyu which could not fail to impress. While some sections of the Wall date back to about 400BC, this section of the Wall was most likely reconstructed during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644) when – according to my trusty Frommer’s - China was trying (and ultimately failing) to contain the threat of Mongul and Manchu invasion.


We were quite unprepared for how – um – physically demanding our Great Wall experience would be. (Martin: Yangshuo's Moon Hill had nothing on this, and we didn't have fanning ladies this time!). First, we had to hike up for about twenty minutes or so just to get onto the Wall. And that was where – breathless and sweaty - the real exertion started! The landscape on which this section of the Wall was built undulates dramatically (and beautifully, of course!), and so we found ourselves scaling hundreds of steps only to descend a couple hundred more steps before going back up again! Our hearts were racing and our sweat glands were working overtime to manage the task at hand in the humid conditions. Poor Lloyd, suffering from Beijing Belly actually since we left Xi’an three days ago, nevertheless embraced the opportunity to see as much of the Wall as we could.

It's a Long Way to Travel for a Stairmaster.....

Of course, we could probably spend months visiting sections of the Great Wall, and certainly I would love to come back and see more of it – particularly some of the less-well visited areas. Today was nothing more than a taster and I feel sure that we will return. In the meantime, a tip if you are visiting this section of the Wall. Take the cable car up….. we wish we had as it drops you at almost the highest point on the Wall and then you can walk down to the Toboggan Run at the other end to descend.

Lloyd Prior to Departure. Great Wall is Visible in the Distance. (In fact, we were only about twenty metres from it, immediately to Lloyd's right)

Oh! Didn’t I mention the Toboggan? Talk about a fantastic way to descend from the Wall. If we hadn’t had a painfully slow Frenchman stopping every three hundred metres or so, I think Lloyd and I would likely have flown off the end of the Toboggan course and landed straight back in Beijing, more than two hours away!


This evening, we tried to make up missing the world famous Shanghai Acrobats (you might remember we were stuck in Mongolia longer than we expected!) by seeing a Beijing troupe. While we've seen tighter performances in terms of group choreography, we were thoroughly entertained by the Cirque-style music and costumes, and we enjoyed ooh-ing and ah-ing in awe and cringing at the near misses.


Tomorrow, we're visiting the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, before boarding the Trans-Tibetan train for the 48-hour journey to Lhasa. We'll update the blog as soon as we can - likely Thursday or Friday. Wish us luck on our high-altitude train journey!

Posted by jacquiedro 01:42 Archived in China Tagged round_the_world

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Coolness!! You guys were at the same spot I was two and a half years ago!! Oh, I forgot to mention the steepness of the wall. Oops. Wasn't the tobaggan ride fun!?! Good luck on the train ride; be safe, breath deep and go slow (should have said that for the Great Wall too!).

by rathyen

Okay - so now I want to go and see the great wall of China just to do the toboggan ride! I probably would have gone up and down all day!

Hi Roger :)


I'm GUTTED that I missed out on the toboggan - even if it is more Alton Towers than Ming Dynasty! But Jacquie - who took the pic of you & Lloyd on the wall - I've never before seen you doing such a coquettish pose! And this was before the toboggan ride......?


by Norvicensi

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