They say the best souvenirs are those you carry with you in your heart and in your head; I couldn’t agree more. It seems the photographs we take can’t even capture the magnificence of what we’ve seen – the depth of meaning, the context - and nothing can capture the interactions we’ve had with others. Today we began our journey with The Great Wall (the pictures that will follow will never do what we experienced justice – but they’re a start).
We began our ascent with a cable car to the foot of the wall and then climbed the Mutianyu section of the wall – said to be one of the most beautiful pieces. This section of the wall is located in the Huairou District of Beijing and was built under the supervision of General ZuDa of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang early in the Ming Dynasty. It is dotted with numerous watch towers and passes and was built upon a steep section of the mountain with the north west portion of the wall on a 1,000 meter high ridge (and let me tell you, as I neared the peak of the wall (top) of this section I could really feel the elevation). Two of the sections of this part, the “arrow node” and the “lying eagle” were laid on a precipitous cliff. Many say, because of the winding nature of this part of the wall, it looks like a flying dragon. In the towers, during the time it was used as protection for China from its northern neighbor, Mongolia, a guard was posted at each window – they could see for miles, and enemies could be spotted long before they could do any damage.
The climb was at times a stroll, more often however it was a slow process as we pushed ourselves to go on, meandering up steep passages. As we neared the top, it became very difficult and was mostly a mental game – but, hey, when you come this far and you’re that close to reaching the top, nothing is going to stop you! Only a few of us made it all the way to the top, we’re told that when climbing the wall, to make it to the top is to be a hero – well, I’m not so sure of that, but I am sure the people who climbed this wall on a regular basis, who guarded their cities, they had to be tough in body and mind!
We finished our day with a rickshaw ride through the Houtong village and then dinner at what is said to be the best Noodles restaurant in China. I don’t know if it is the best, but I do know it was very good.