How can I possibly put the Great Wall of China, the most enormous construction project in human history, into words that truly do it justice? For most of my life I couldn’t possibly have imagined that I would one day stand on this historic structure but that’s exactly what I did on Friday morning!
Known as Tiger Mountain Great Wall, the segment of the wall located about 12 km northeast of Dandong sees far fewer tourists than the sections that are closer to Beijing. Built during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1664), it runs parallel to the North Korean border and is the easternmost section of the Great Wall. Buffeted by wind and rain for more than 500 years, the wall had fallen into ruin until a large scale restoration project was begun in 1992. Now fully restored, it snakes its way up the steep mountainside to a height of 146.3 metres. One of three watchtowers stands like a beacon at the peak and provides a panoramic view across the Yalu River and into North Korea. From the peak, the wall makes a quick descent down the back side of the mountain ending near a narrow branch of the river.
As we left our bus and walked up the road toward it, seeing the Great Wall winding its way up the hillside in the morning mist was an absolute thrill. Of course, we couldn’t help wondering how well our old knees would handle the climb but I think the sheer exhilaration of being there helped carry us up the steep incline.
The forecast called for rain on Friday but Colleen (the redhead in one of the photos) and I are convinced that the umbrellas in my backpack and the rain cape in her bag were good luck charms as the weather was great; not too warm or too cold, no wind and not a drop of rain all day!
Since it was a holiday in China, we shared the wall with many other people but it wasn’t overly crowded and there was a wonderful sense of camaraderie as we shared this incredible experience with one another. We only heard a few words of English all day but plenty of delighted laughter as people huffed and puffed their way up the steep cement stairs that made up much of the climb. There were also high fives given as well as the universal thumbs up sign.
After reaching the far end of the wall, we enjoyed a fairly challenging hike back to our starting point but I’ll tell you more about that in a future post. For now though, I’m happy to say that our knees survived both the wall and the hike and we weren’t even sore afterward. Obviously, climbing the 67 stairs up to our apartment more than once a day for the past six weeks was excellent preparation!