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Day 7. Yixian and Great Wall

Thursday, September 17, 2009 permalink [Permalink]

We've decided to wait here in Yixian for the rest of the group to catch up. This gave us an opportunity to visit the Great Wall of China some 75km in a north-west direction.

Having gotten in touch with the rest of the group, we decided to spend another day in Yixian so they could catch a bus to unite the gang. We spent the morning exploring Yixian but other than some girls posing for photos outside a photo studio, we didn't find anything interesting.

Girls Outside Photo Studio
[Girls Outside Photo Studio]

Of course, we needed something to keep us occupied in the meantime and the Great Wall of China would do just that.  We found out that 75km in a north-west direction were sections of the Great Wall.  Given that this was impossible to do in a day on bicycles, we organized a taxi to take us there.

Regional Map of Yixian showing the Great Wall of China
[Regional Map of Yixian showing the Great Wall of China]

As per usual, the smells originating from the surrounding areas, farms, residential areas and canals were quite exotic.  After an hour or so we found ourselves surrounded by high mountains.

Driving in Circles trying to find the Wall
[Driving in Circles trying to find the Wall]

We could almost smell that elusive wall.  Unfortunately our driver wasn't familiar with the local roads, nor how to actually get to the wall - a number of detours and frequent stops for directions resulted in us finally glimpsing the wall perched atop the jagged mountains.  Finally!  I couldn't wait to get within a few meters of the historic construction.

First glimpse of the Great Wall of China
[First glimpse of the Great Wall of China]

However, just as we thought that it would be smooth sailing to the top, the paved road turned to stone, narrowed and meandered its way between the steep hillsides.  We were now perched with one wheel on the road and the other clumsily balancing on the edge of a stream.  It simply wasn't going to be.  In the distance we could see three police cars with a number of officers with the shirts off, chatting, and smoking.  Things like that never turn out to one's advantage, particularly when the police are portrayed as lazy and unprofessional in front of western tourists.

Police In the Distance
[Police In the Distance]

As we'd predicted, the wall will have to wait for another day - we were stopped by the police, our driver given a verbal reprimand and we were all sent back to where we came from - looks like we'll have to make do with a few distant glances at the structure for now.  To our surprise, our driver was undeterred and took a further 35km detour to another section of the wall.  This one was partly restored, surrounded by a village and demonstrated how the true wall would have looked some hundreds of years previously.  Fantastic!

Although looking at the village and surrounding buildings, one could assume that over the many years, the raw materials which formed parts of the original wall were dismantled by the local villagers to construct their own homes.

The Great Wall of China
[The Great Wall of China]

Ok, we've seen it, we've touched it, we've walked it, and even had another brush with the law.  Now let's get back to town because the rest of the boys will be arriving tonight.

We got there just in time to receive a text message from Ray, saying that they had just arrived, but they couldn't find the hotel.  Yixian isn't the easiest place to get your bearings, particularly since major landmarks are hidden behind thick smog.  After some creative navigating and negotiating, the boys managed to arrive at the hotel.  I hadn't seen Little Dave, Ray and Alex for over two years and it was a welcome reunion.  After escorting them to a local restaurant for a chat and summary of the trip thus far, we left them there to gorge while we retired for the evening.

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