August 31, 2010

China: Climbing the Juyongguan section of the Great Wall

After sampling the firearms of the People’s Liberation Army, I was off to climb the Great Wall of China.

I visited the Juyong Pass section which was first built in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Located approximately 60 kilometers from Beijing, it played a vital role in the city’s defenses. I would have liked to have visited a remote, unrenovated section of the wall, but unfortunately my time in Beijing was limited.

When we arrived at Juyongguan, my guide asked me if I wanted to walk the easy part of the wall, or climb the “hard” part that snakes up Jinju Mountain. Still jet-lagged and stuffed full of greasy Chinese food from lunch, I of course chose the “hard” climb. It did not disappoint. There are 1,700 uneven, slippery steps to the top of the mountain – nearly twice the amount contained in the Washington Monument. Thankfully, the unbearable heat and smog from the previous day had been replaced by cool temperatures and a slight drizzle. I’m not sure where my sudden burst of energy came from (the greasy lunch, perhaps?) but I climbed the wall rather quickly. In fact, I totally smoked by guide (it didn’t help that she was wearing completely impractical shoes). At one point I stopped to wait for her, and when she caught up she was incredulous.

“Lindsay, I climb this several times a week, and yet you are much faster. Do you have many mountains where you live?”

“Well, not where I live now, but where I grew up, yeah.”

The start of the climb. This stone is inscribed with the famous quote by Mao Zedong: “If we fail to reach the Great Wall we are not men.”

Getting higher

View from a watchtower

American pose at the top of the Great Wall

Locks of love on the Great Wall

More photos here.