Off the beaten path and on to the Great Wall. The wall was originally built as a series of disparate ramparts that were eventually united around 1500s. It was breached by the Mongols in the 13 th Century and the Manchus in the 17th. On a previous trip, we visited the Badaling section (44 miles outside of Beijing) and one of the most popular sites due to its proximity to the city. Detail has been given to its serving of the many tourists who come there and want a look at the real deal without too much effort.
For us, it was a 2 hour car ride out to Jinshanling, located in Hebei Province. This section was build during 1567-1582 during the famous Ming Dynasty. Although it seemed quite sleepy, we drive into an area where a new 2-story concrete car-park awaits us, hop on to a tram to take us further up the road passing the construction of a new luxury hotel, and are dumped off so that we must walk through the resort plaza “to be” with its designer coffee and tea shop, wine store, illuminated water feature for water performances and sweet store. We arrive at the “Gate” of the cable car to take us up to the wall. We wondered if we came in the wrong time and should have waited for the ski season since the whole place had that kind of characterization.
Oh- the cable car house is awkwardly camouflaged by fake green leaves that are far brighter than any thing else in the surrounding landscape. But even with the high canyon winds, we slowly made our way up the hill in a Chinese made cable car- not the usual Swiss engineering we are accustomed to in ski resorts.
The Wall. Steep and stony paths east and west interspersed with watchtowers, gatehouses, all sorts of communication devices: smoke, flares, drums, bells to warn of invaders, canons in places, and, beacon towers. Near the entry points, there has been significant restoration of the paving and steps. However, after reaching the first watchtower, the smooth new paving gives way to hundreds of years of weathering and wearing down by the elements and humans.
The views are spectacular, the air is clear, it is quiet except for the tour groups. Here we see more Europeans and Australians, then domestic Chinese. After a couple of hours, we give our legs a rest and return following our same path in return as in entry.
As it is mid afternoon, time for lunch. Our guide, Lilly, has not been in this area for awhile – new garage, old hotel torn down for new one, etc. So she is a little discombobulated when she had to find a safe house (clean kitchen for foreigners like us. Remembering a family name from the previous hotel, we ended up in a small family run inn and restaurant in which Lilly referred to as serving “country” food. Yeh, she ordered a little –a lot – of everything: Sichuan shredded pork, sweet and sour pork, dumplings, fried rice, noodles, greens and mushrooms, fried potatoes stix, chicken and peanuts, ……. The food was perfect – better than any fancy restaurant meal. We were in food comma for the 2 hour return trip.
Needless to say – no dinner for us.