China: Coda

For our last day in China, we opted for a trip to the Great Wall. We were hoping for something less touristy and maybe even hike an unrestored section of the wall. We also were hoping to get there with a relatively simple public transit route. Researching our options and chatting with our host Yuling, we decided on Mutianyu. While this spot still turns over a lot of tourists and appeared to be fully restored, it seemed like the best option all things considered. The route:

was very simple… take the 916 express to H24, then was 2k up a hill to the entrance… so off we went…. grabbed the 916 express. About 2k before what WOULD have been our transfer, we were grabbed by a guy at one of the stops saying we needed to get off the bus there to get to the the wall… we looked at the bus driver who offered zero emotion, so off we went. It was as the bus pulled away and we listened to this man’s nearly comprehensible monologue about the H24 only running twice a day and having to take a cab up the mountain that we realized that we had been taken by a scammer… realizing we really didn’t have too many options we swallowed our pride, negotiated a price, and jumped in his (not a) cab.

Though we felt taken advantage of, he did do what he promised; drove us the 35 minutes up the mountain, showed us the bus station, told us the time that the H24 would leave, walked us to the ticket counter, explained the options, and found me an ATM. So we squared up and said goodbye.  He said maybe we’d see him when we came down… we hoped not.

Once at the ticket counter, we found some unexpected  costs… the gate entry fee, a round trip shuttle bus, a cable car ride, and a toboggan slide back down the mountain  (yes, that is true)… we started to wonder if we were at a Disney style theme park rather than a historical landmark… but we were all in at this point so we bought the entire package and jumped on the shuttle… then we hit the cable car… that ended up being surprisingly pleasant

Once on the Wall we were jazzed. All of the annoyance of people slicing off their piece of our trip to the wall went away with a breath of clean mountain air and the great snake of eye candy extending in both directions 

It was a very light tourist day too, so we really got to enjoy the sight without too many log jams. We turned north from the chair  lift 

And walked to the end of the restored part. It was amazing… at the end, all of the exits were walled off. We had hoped to walk until we were alone… but it apeared that that was not an allowed option… looking out one of the windows, though, we noticed the unrestored section, and a trail… it was only a small leap, so we went for it

It was so worth it! The unrestored wall was overgrown and crumbling from the trees that had taken over… we had discovered “the wild wall” as we later heard an “expat” describe. It was certainly a wild experience!  We went to a tower and literally climbed up the side of the wall to get to the top

The view was unreal

There were moments were we felt like we were balancing on the top of the world

It was amazing.

After helping a few people out of the G-P contained area and into the wild side, we climbed back in and worked our way back to the exit toboggan slide…

It’s a freaking roller luge down the mountain! You have a hand brake and they send you off with a shove…

It was the best way to end such a fantastic day on top of the earth.

While we were on the wild wall, we struck up a conversation with Ryan, the expat who had lived in Beijing for a few years. He told us that he and his partner had been scammed in the same way when they first went there and offered for us to jump in with his crew’s van of expats and visiting travelers. It was certainly a welcomed stroke of luck after the morning’s debacle. 

So after all of that, we made it back to Beijing in time to stroll one more time through one of the temple neighborhoods where we found a Tibetan restaurant for dinner… it was a lovely last day.

Up at 6am, on a flight at 10am, which landed at 10am the same day… back down the blue line to Melenium Station in foggy, cool, Chicago.  On the south shoreline to Michigan city… A trip to Founders… and we are home.

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