Goodness gracious, great wall of China!

Xishuiyu, 3-4 October

In the early morning on the 3rd of October our plane lands without a hitch, we’re in The People’s Republic of China!

It took about 24 hours to get here from New Delhi, but we’re feeling kind of fresh because it’s 7am and we managed to get a few hours sleep on the plane. China was always the country I worried about visiting the most just because of the language barrier, but we’re off to a great start. Immigration is cleared in seconds, we get a local SIM card, then an IC card for public transport and just like that we’re on the metro to Dongzhimen, Beijing.

When we applied for our Tourist Visa back in Edinburgh, it was mentioned that a government official may visit us at our hotel within 48 hours of arrival, however we are on our way to the middle of nowhere, also known as the little town of Xishuiyu. I’d be very surprised if anyone comes knocking!

First we take the bus from Dongzhimen to Huairou, then get a local bus all the way to the end of the line to reach our destination around noon. As expected, our English is useless here, but with a little help from technology we manage to find our hotel.

Xishuiyu consists of only two streets as well as a big car park the size of the town. We’re here to visit another of the 7 New Wonders of the World, China’s Great Wall.

The Great Wall of China is the collective of fortification systems built across the historical northern borders of China to protect its territories against nomadic groups from Central Asia, Mongolia and what is now Russia. Building dates back to as early as the 7th century BC, however the most well-known sections of the wall were constructed during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). The entire wall measures out to be 21,196 km and stretches from Liaodong in the east to Lop Lake in the west. Rightly it is recognized one of the most impressive architectural feats in history.

The part of the Great Wall we’re visiting is called Huanghuacheng, which is the only lakeside section of wall in the Beijing area. Huanghua means yellow flower and in the summer the village is covered in a sea of yellow. The local mountainous terrain strategically places it as the northern gateway to Beijing and nearby Ming Tombs.

When we make our way to the ticket office the weather has shifted from a sunny 30 degrees Celcius the day before to a rainy, miserable 14 degrees today. At least most of the tourist have stayed away so it’s not very crowded.

We get talking to one of the guards at the first viewpoint, who explains that most of the wall at Huanghuacheng has fully been restored, but you can still see parts of the crumbling, unrestored wall in the background. Friendly guy, and not a bad photographer to boot.

A lake was formed because of a nearby dam and water has found a way through the wall. Better hope the Mongolians don’t swim, am I right?

After an arduous morning of climbing steps we’re rewarded with amazing views from the watchtowers.

Finally we reach the top and overlook the land we hope to explore and conquer in the next 40 days. Here we come China!


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