Tuesday 18 September 2007

China: The Great Wall at Mutianyu

After walking un-restored sections of the wall yesterday, we took a forty-minute drive to one of the major tourist sections of restored wall at Mutianyu.

The walk up to the cable car requires running the gauntlet of dozens of souvenir stalls containing everything you never wanted. At the top, we clambered out of the Austrian-built cabin, to climb more steps until finally reaching the wall. At this moment the rain which had fallen all morning stopped, leaving behind perfect conditions for walking and freshly-washed vegetation each side of the wall.

This section has been beautifully restored and Mrs M's bones creaked and clanked as we made our way through several towers, past small groups of differing nationalities. I spotted a chap running along the wall, his grey tee-shirt soaked in sweat. He reached our tower, took a photo and was poised to move on. 'Timing each section?' I enquired. 'Yah, zer is no gym in my hotel,' he replied. Good reason.

We ambled on until overcome with peckishness and duly consumed our hotel packed lunch. Post lunch we carried on until rain stopped play and we took the cable car back to the souvenir stands. Mrs M weakened and bought two mugs, while the stall-holder's assistant showed me saucy statues.

Back at the hotel, I felt the desire to climb the section of wall that we could not find yesterday. The manager provided a Tibetan guide who led me up the steep wall like a mountain goat, barely breaking sweat. We reached the top and surveyed the ludicrously steep terrain we had just climbed, some parts being almost a 60 degree slope.

After a short breather, we scrambled down, assisted unnecessarily by momentum in a few places. I was only concerned at one point when the mountain goat guide slipped on a section next to a 30 metre plummet.

Dinner was a robust affair as Mrs M forced me to overindulge. Discussions with the manager about tomorrow then ensued. We have a plan.

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