Monday morning started really early, as we were headed for the Great Wall. Despite the early hour, we were quite excited to be up early enough to get to the wall before the throngs of other tourists converge on it, making it crowded and less enjoyable. We had chosen a less visited section of the wall, Mutianyu, hoping that this would also allow us to have more of the wall to ourselves. We had a group of nine people, and we set out on a two hour drive.
The section of the wall we were set to visit was a 3km section that has been restored from the dilapidated state that much of the wall still resides in. We were all really happy to see that we were the first people to get there, so we scrambled to get up to it. It was a short hike, up hill, to the wall from the parking lot, and we were awestruck at the view once we reached the top. With two other people from our group, we headed to the right, while the other five people headed to the left. We reached a lookout point and tower that was as far as we could go in about 20 minutes of hiking. We were still the only tourists in sight, allowing us to get some great photos unspoiled by the herds of tourists that would soon polka dot the sight.
It was starting to get really hot, as the sun climbed higher in the sky. We decided to hike from the southern end to the northern end, taking in the entire section that was open for viewing. Since most of the wall is built on ridges of mountains, the walk is somewhat like a roller coaster of ups and downs. We lost the other two people in our group due to the heat, however, we trudged on. The northern part of the wall, that is open, ceases only after an incredibly steep hike up some steps. Sweating and breathing hard, we finally reach the amazing vista. By this time, the wall is teeming with people; but we find ourselves alone on this section, as many people are too lazy to climb the intimidating staircase. We snapped a couple more pics before we have to head back down to the van.
The immensity of the wall, coupled with the fact that it was made without the assistance of machinery, really makes it an incredible thing to witness. It was the first item for us to check off on the enormous list of things that we want to see, and it was a big one; its only the biggest wall in the world.