Our days in the ‘Jing are fleeting, so we took a vote and decided to take a final family outing to the Great Wall on Wednesday. Although the day began with rain, we were not deterred. We boarded our rented van and boldly let our driver take us to Mutianyu, confidant that we could return a week or two later if the rain didn’t subside.
My last venture to Mutianyu was about two years ago with a Daystar school group. On the hike up, we were forced to squeeze through a bevy of vendors. This time, there was only one man selling beverages. I’m not sure if it was due to the rain or because the vendors are no longer allowed near the ticket area and the steps at the base of the Wall, but we enjoyed the hawker-free experience.
For the kids and our ayi, it was their first experience at the Great Wall. As soon as we got off the gondola and actually set foot on the Wall, our boys started asking to go home. Kids. Our ayi, whom we learned has a touch of vertigo, weathered the gondola ride well, but clearly wasn’t keen with all the stairs either. Meanwhile, the three adults in our party shared the burden of carrying the twins and two backpacks. To be fair, the boys did walk at times, but Savvy and I never really got a break. On the other hand, we did get a good workout.
After visiting a few watchtowers and taking in the limited view – the Wall was shrouded in clouds – we headed back down the mountain. As we departed the shuttle bus and wearily trudged to our van, I took stock of my physical state: sore left knee, aching shoulders, and numb arms from carrying what amounted to a sleeping 15kg sack of potatoes. Not exactly my best adventure on the Great Wall (that would be my two nights hiking and camping at Jinshanling), but a memorable one nonetheless.
Photos: Christopher Lay