Hiking The Great Wall of China
Trip Start Mar 21, 2005
351Trip End Ongoing
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Where I stayed
Perhaps the wall wasn't as successful at preventing invasions from the north, as both the Manchurians and the Mongols managed to penetrate its defenses. But then again, maybe the immense building project was successful--prior to the wall, Mongols and Manchus could invade at will.
The wall became the dividing line between China and Mongolia
As with most structures in China, the Great Wall has evolved over the years. In its early form, it was not whole, but instead protected individual states. It became whole when China became unified during the Qin dynasty over 2,200 years ago. Most of the wall dates back to the Ming Dynasty about 500 years ago.
During this time, garrison towers and higher walls were built, and invaders were successfully deterred. Back then, intricate smoke signals communicated the movements of the enemy and fortifications were elaborate, with double walls and holes for archers. The Chinese had learned from their mistakes three hundred years earlier.
Back then, the guards were engaged in psychological warfare as the northern Mongols bribed them and threatened them with the cruelest of punishments. "The wall is only as strong as the men who guard them," said Ghengis Khan. In the early 1200s, he unified the Mongolian clans and successfully reached Beijing in 2015, conquering northern China, despite the wall
Soon thereafter, much of Asia was in Mongol hands.
All who surrender will be spared;
whoever does not surrender but opposes with struggle and dissension,
shall be annihilated.
Kevin, Karen, Nate, and I began our hike at 9 am in Jinshanling after a three hour minibus trip from the Far East Hotel. Already the heat was oppressive as we climbed up a mountainside to the wall at the top. Sweating profusely, we paid our entry fee and entered the wall at the first of thirty garrison towers that we'd encounter on our hike. Each garrison tower was a brief respite from the heat, with views of the undulating and slithering wall on the shrubby mountainsides through the tower windows.
At each tower, a Liquid Sales Person (LSP) stood as a sentinel, awaiting our arrival: "Water, beer, coke!" The LSPs were well-trained, like Ghengis, in psychologically conquering their opposition---in this case, the tourist. One prime tactic was very subtly rubbing the cold bottles of water on your arm. Another tactic was to respond to our "no" by saying "maybe later" then following us, hoping we would break down. As a group, we had brought water, but still broke down and bought water by garrison tower number 25, five hours into the hike
Along the way, we passed the LSPs and bumped into "hot pants" tourists from France, running Germans, and camping teenagers from Minnesota. Several people staying at the Far East Hotel had also camped along the wall. One had hiked the wall for one month, getting abducted, blindfolded, and interrogated by the military along the way (probably for being a spy near a military base or something).
Near tower number three, we hiked quickly away from the loudspeaker on a hillside, where Kenny G blared over and over. On the other side was a gondola, helping tourists up to the wall, which was newly-rebuilt.
Further on, the wall was no longer restored. Five hundred years of weather cracked the towers, loosened the stones, and caused chunks of the wall to fall to the ground. Entropy happens.
Six hours later, we arrived in Simitai, with the wall continuing up a sheer cliff in front of us. Tired, hot, and sweaty, we gladly rested our feet and boarded our minibus for Beijing. Still, the wall that undulated into the distant haze beckoned us to continue our adventures..."maybe later".