Dying on the Wall
|From Simatai to Jinshanling, 10 km along one of the most spectacular stretches of the Wall, through 20+ towers, up and down stairs and across crumbly rubble. Close to tower 21, workmen were repairing a section of the wall: evidently a job that continues from the time of the first emperor. Our local guides (farmers from a village ironically on the barbarian side of the wall who earn a little extra money by escorting hikers and hawking postcards) pointed out several bricks in the wall that are inscribed with the official Ming era seal of approval.
|The day was hazy, with a breeze that cooled us down at periodic rest stops. I am, sadly, one of the slowest in our group, as steady walking on flat land at sea level hasn't gotten my lungs in shape for the ascents. I had frequent flashes of that last scene in Yang Warriors: Si Lang, sprawled on his back on the Wall, utterly exhausted from the ordeal of living a double life in the Liao camp and unable to return home to his family. That's exactly how I felt (well, maybe without the arrow in my chest, but there were a few times during the hike when that would have been a relief).
As at Mutianyu last year, I was bemused that the Chinese would set the wall steps so far apart: it's quite a scramble for short people!
Despite the haze, the views are astonishing. For some bizarre reason, before I got to Beijing my camera setting got changed to "cyanotone" (whatever the hell that is; must read the manual...) and I did not notice until after today's hike, so I have some creative images to play with. But here are a few photos (taken in weather conditions we definitely did not experience) scanned from the postcards I bought from my local companion:
|We spent the night at the Jinshanling Guest House (only game in town), which is a charming collection of buildings, surrounded by gardens of lilies and decorated with faux Chinese paintings, but which lacks some internal amenities. Our room has a sauna, inside the bathroom, but the shower head is in the center of the room rather than in a stall, so everything gets soaked. The knob for my bed light was missing, so I decided to go to sleep rather than write in my journal.
Jinshanling is small and quiet; I suppose many of the locals have jobs at the Wall and guest house facilities. We took little strolls in small groups up a hill to the village and investigated the livestock: dogs, pigs, chickens, a donkey. From our courtyards we could catch glimpses of the Wall towers as night falls, and early the next morning.
Next day: on to Chengde.
|Jinshanling guest house and village shrine|