An Overview Of Our Day To The Great Wall of China
Updated: Nov 13, 2018
An extraordinary Wonder of the World. A full disclosure of what we experienced.
Tye and I opted for a private tour of the Great Wall of China. This included pick up from our hotel, a driver, a private van with air conditioning and beverages, a tour guide, and our tickets.
We chose a day tour of the Great Wall. This meant that our driver and guide picked us up right from our hotel at about 9:00 am. They were about 10 minutes late due to traffic, but no biggie to us. Once they arrived we hopped in and were on our way. “Lucy” was our guide. A sweet, quirky, intelligent, and hilarious guide. She gave us her real name, but she said, “you can call me Lucy since it’s easy for you to remember.” Ha, well that's the truth.
It’s about a 45 minute drive from central Beijing to the most popular part of the wall which is where we were going. Lucy gave us some history and a little about herself while we drove and started to take the winding roads up the mountain to the wall. Once we reached the vehicle base, our driver stayed with the vehicle while Tye, Lucy and I continued to hike up the pavement to the ticketing area. Our ticket to the Great Wall was included in our tour fee, but the mode to get to the top was not. You could either choose to hike up the mountain to the wall, take a chair lift, or take a gondola car.
A note: The chairlift takes you to tower 7 and the gondola takes you to tower 14 both of which are a small fee. Lucy said that if we take the chairlift up the mountain, then hike to Tower 1, you will get the best pictures from there, looking back toward tower 7 because of where the sun was at the time. We gratefully listened to her suggestion and decided to take the chair lift. Another thing about the chair lift section is that if this is the way you choose to go up, you can take an alpine slide on the way down, which is super fun! More of that to come.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day. 75 degrees out. Sun was shining, with a slight breeze. The slow chair lift was a great way to take everything in, see the view, appreciate the nature that surrounds the wall in the mountains.
We hopped off the chair lift and began the hike to Tower 1. They call it Tower 1 because that is the tower the government started to preserve the walkway from. There are more towers beyond that but the path isn't necessarily the safest. So away we went. Quickly coming to realize that it's a lot harder than it looks. You have to realize that the wall is built ON TOP of a mountain range. Not next to it or through it. On top. So the steps are very steep and 2-3 times as tall as a normal step in some places. At certain points I was leaning forward using my hands to crawl up the steps in fear that I would fall backwards. They have built handrails along the sides to help pull yourself up and to keep your balance which is very helpful. By the time we hiked to Tower 1 from 7, I was sweating. Hard. Profusely. We got to tower 1 after about 45 minutes of hiking and Lucy exclaims between breaths, “I had a baby 3 months ago... and my friends call me Lucy Times 2... because I gained to many kilos... I needed this hike.” LOL.
The view was gorgeous. The wall traversed over the mountain ridges for as far as you could see, winding and weaving atop the landscape. Lucy explained that we arrived at the Great Wall at a very lucky time because all of the apricot trees were in full bloom. A bloom that normally only lasts for about 2 weeks. It was gorgeous to see the pockets of white blooms everywhere contrasted against the brown of the wall and mountains because of the winter. Lots of green was on its way.
After we had caught our breath, we made the trek back down to Tower 1. Just as scary going down as it is up. But Lucy and I walked together. Her accepting all the questions I was firing at her about the wall, and me intently listening to her answers, hanging on to every word while Tye snapped photos behind us.
We made it back to Tower 7 and all opted to take the the alpine slide back down. It’s basically a sled with a lever that controls your speed. And the sled was on a metal path. We each got in our own and I pushed the lever down to begin my decent. We picked up speed and as we were winding down we spotted a family of wild goats. They were so close to the sled path that I actually reached my hand out and touched the tail of one! It was exhilarating!
My only disappointment was that once we were back to the base, there was only one small shop for souvenirs. I was expecting maybe a small market, but just one little shop. It might be regulated or something, I’m not sure. But oddly enough, the only restaurant, was Subway of all things. So strange to me!
Our driver was patiently waiting and we all piled into the van to begin our journey back. Lucy filled us in on more history, facts, and knowledge of China in general. The ride was smooth, and the air conditioning was welcomed after all the sweating. We gave the driver and Lucy both a tip. And they returned us back to our hotel around 3:00 pm. It was the perfect amount of time!