The Great Wall at Mutianyu

Wow. The Great Wall of China may not be visible from space (that's a myth, apparently) but it is still bloody amazing. We arrived in Beijing last night to miserable rain and dark grey skies. After leaving Shanghai in the throes of spring and arriving north in the depths of winter, I was ill-disposed towards the city. We headed instead to the little village of Mutianyu, for two nights by the foot of the Great Wall, arriving just on dusk to lovely old houses and steep winding streets, but unable to make out  the wall through the heavy rain.
This morning, though, we woke to glorious sunshine and clear blue skies, with that unmistakeable silhouette of the wall visible far above us.

The climb from the village passes through about a thousand roadside stalls selling cold water, cold beer, pyjamas, souvenirs and walking sticks. Should you need a lace parasol, they have those too. Further up the hill stretch rows of ladies calling out to offer you a taste of their dried fruits and candied walnuts. 
Just before the Best Great Wall Cable Car entrance a ming dynasty guard in fully authentic plastic helmet was playing Chinese chess (xiang qi) with a worried guy in a suit. 

I opted against the cable car, even though it was the Best, and the chair lift (no such impressive title for it), and walked up instead, a steep but not impossible climb. The view from the top is all the more impressive when you have had to puff and pant your way uphill on foot. And what a view - rugged mountain ranges stretch away both north and south of the wall. The steep brown hillside is dotted with the white puffs of the first peach blossoms of spring, a delicate contrast to the solidness of the wall itself stretching like a great stone ribbon unfurled to the horizon. Walking along the top, through the gatehouses and up and down the stone pathways, I am struck by the wall's absolute magnificence. Don't ever pass up a chance to see it. Ever.

I'm trialling a new larger size photo format. Let me know if you have problems downloading them.

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