Trip Start Jul 24, 2011
27Trip End Aug 21, 2011
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The Wall's watchtowers are at intervals of approximately 140m. This was because, when the Wall was built, the furthest an archer could shoot an arrow was 70m. There was also a signalling system to warn of approaching enemies, which depended on beacon fires and lights - one fire for up to 50 enemies, two fires for up to 200, three for up to 500 and four for a full-scale invasion
After passing several watchtowers, we come off the Wall for a bit because it's too decrepit to walk on. There's quite a descent through thick scrub and then across a few fields of tall sweetcorn. The path is marked with blue and orange arrows and dots, but we don't need these as we've got another local guide leading us today - and this one is giving us some decent stops at regular intervals, for which I'm grateful! The guide has brought along his son, aged about 12, who is collecting every discarded water bottle and drinks can that he can find, and is carrying them in a dustbin liner. He can earn a small amount of pocket money from the Park Authority for doing this, and by the end of the walk his bin liner is crammed full. He even thanks me when I add a bottle to his load!
Eventually we get back to the Wall, although we're walking alongside it rather than on it. Tiger Mountain can be seen behind us and we're told one of the adjacent areas is used by the military and that we mustn't take photos in that direction. Unfortunately, when John announces this to the group, I'm out of earshot and a few minutes later I'm innocently taking a photo of a pleasant but top secret view, to the consternation of everyone else
After lunch, the Wall is in better repair and provides an easier surface to walk on. There are also more people around and eventually we get to a touristy spot, just above the village of Jinshanling. There's a statue here of General Chi (or Xii), 1528-1588, who was in charge of building this section of Wall. He'd made his name defending the Chinese coast against raiding Japanese pirates before being transferred to improve Beijing's defences on this section of Wall. He's also commemorated by having a modern frigate named after him in the Navy - the Taiwanese Navy, that is! From here, there's a surfaced road down to the village which has a few shops and cafes, one of which is owned by our guide and his wife. So we're able to sit around drinking beers, tea, etc. - all very civilised! And it's only 2.15pm, so the walk hasn't been very long at all, despite the predictions.
After the drinks, it's a short walk down to the comfortable-looking Jinshanling Hotel. There's a restaurant/bar here and a few tourist-type shops outside, but not a great deal to do except sit in the sun, drink beer and eventually eat an excellent meal in the restaurant, which includes crispy chicken, mutton and potato stew, numerous types of vegetables, plus rice and noodles
One disappointment so far has been the lack of wildlife sightings. There aren't many animals to be seen at all and not many birds in the sky. Rumour has it that Mao and subsequent leaders urged people to kill animals and birds to improve the yield of harvests, so perhaps this is the result? There's one exception, however. There's absolutely no shortage of wasps here, especially around the tables outside the restaurant. They're bigger than the ones I'm used to seeing, but not as quick-witted or agile. So we manage to reduce their numbers somewhat, although eventually we're forced to go inside, so they win .....