Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Great Wall of China

The Great Wall of China is one of the seven wonders of the world, it is over 4,000 miles of an ancient barrier to keep out Mongolian warriors from invading China. The wall was built for many years and many people died making the wall and are buried inside. All of these facts made me want to see the genuine wall instead of the restored "Disneyland of the Great Wall" Badaling. I chose to travel 70 miles out of Beijing for a day trip to Jinshanling. This is a portion of the wall that has some unrestored "wild wall" from 700 years ago, as well as some restored portions from the late 1980's. I heard  great reviews of the walk from Simatai to Jinshanling, but Simatai is now being restored. Many parts of the wall are falling apart and will most likely never be seen in the original state by many people.

We started out at 9am outside of downtown Beijing and traveled 150km to our site. Lucas' two sisters joined us for their first time seeing the unrestored wall (that they can remember). It was pouring rain that day and Chinese traffic was as fun as ever, but we made it to Jinshanling around noon nonetheless. The way out through the mountain villages was beautiful. We took a sort of long way, but we were able to see the mountains and trees sprawling on both sides of the street for miles. The leaves were changing colors so the bright reds, yellows and greens were bursting out everywhere.

There were only about 10 cars in the parking lot when we arrived and basically nobody outside at all except for the vendors to sell souvenirs. We paid our 150 quai for four and we started our jouney up to the first tower in our sight. We were followed by old people who lived in the village and wanted to sell us bags, but after that small stretch of human activity we were completely isolated.

The wall was spectacular and zig-zagged through the land as far as we could see. We first walked through the restored part of the wall that seemed old and crumbled to us at first, but was easy to maneuver. Up and down steep stairs, and through dark halls in the towers, we reached the places where the battling would occur, where the Chinese warriors would set up obstacles for their opponents and where they could shoot arrows from about anywhere on the wall through small holes at arm level.

We met a man that claimed to be the best Great Wall photographer, and he was. We bought his book and had him sign it for us. The pictures were stunning and I knew why everyone goes to Jinshanling to photograph now. We took some photos of our own and hiked for an hour or two before we reached the wild wall. The unrestored wall from the 1300's was now before us and it was completely obvious at our first glance. There was a two story tower that had completely collapsed and was in ruins. Parts of the wall had been completely crushed and had fallen down the mountain to reveal a large cliff that we could easily fall down. This part of the wall was more of a reddish/brown color and reminded me of the rocks and mountains that held up the entire wall. You could see the craftsmanship of 700 years ago and imagine what material they had and what they would have seen so long ago (minus the highway in the back). Some people were walking through the forest and had a donkey with them. It seemed like we were back in the old days when the wall was being built.

Our only way down was a muddy path that took 30 minutes to hike down. There was donkey manuer and no sign of where we were going except for the dirt path that we had to trust. Small farms of corn and lettuce lay down in the valley with small cottages for the villagers. It didn't seem like we were in the 21st century by far now. We reached the small parking lot and headed out of Jinshanling. The sun came out for the first time in 2 weeks for me, and the sky had beautiful clouds surrounding the fall leaves on the forest of trees around us.

[caption id="attachment_314" align="aligncenter" width="600" caption="Robotos at the Great Wall"][/caption]