The Great Wall of China stretches almost ten thousand kms across the northern part of China. It was built in stages, around 2000 years ago, more or less, and has served a variety of purposes, including protection against raids and invasions, a border to control allowing transport of goods along the Silk Road, regulation or encouragement of trade and the control of immigration and emigration. It was also used to keep the rabbits out, according to an advert on Australian television.
There is a series watch towers, troop barracks, garrison stations, and gunwales along the length of the wall and many sections of it have proved suitable for use as a transportation corridor.
Almost ten thousand kms
It's a must-do if you're in the vicinity of Beijing and, of course, you can pay a lot of money for a tour with fifty of your closest friends on a coach stopping at expensive souvenir shops on the way, or you can get there all by yourself. It's easy, here are my top ten tips.
1. Head for your nearest Beijing subway station and purchase a metro card. This will make your journey smoother and may give you priority over cash-wielding tourists if there's a big crowd.
Beijing Metro Card
2. Go to Xizhimen station. Exit at Beijing North Railway Station (just follow the signs).
3. Head for the first floor of the station building and catch the fast train (also known as S train).
4.If the S train isn't running, due to unforeseen circumstances such as a torrential downpour which was my experience, catch the 877 bus. It's easy to find, 500m east of the train station and there are lots of signs along the way to help direct you.
Follow the signs to bus 877
5. Swipe your metro card and sit down for an hour. There's only one stop - Badeling- so you'll know when to get off.
The 877 bus to Badeling takes an hour
6. The area where the buses stop is busy. Very busy. Head up the hill. Ignore people selling taxi rides, it's not really that far, especially by comparison to the walk you are about to do. However, if you want to conserve energy, there's a free shuttle bus.
Lots of people, buses, hawkers, maybe even a torrential downpour
7. If you go through a nasty corridor with stalls on either side selling tacky souvenirs, you'll know you are on the right track.
8. Head straight for the Cable Car entry. Buy a one-way ticket for 80¥ plus 40¥ for an entry ticket to the Great Wall.
9. Enjoy the short cable car ride to a high point on the wall.
Steps to the wall
10. Walk back down. You will have left the masses walking on the low section of the wall while here at the top section, you may even find you'll have whole sections of the wall to yourself.
You may have sections all to yourself
You'll enjoy lots of steep steps.......
........ watch towers, and astounding views.