It was one of the highlights of the trip, a wonder I'd looked forward to seeing ever since I first booked the trip.
We'd stopped by a Ming Dynasty tomb beforehand, but I'd waited too long for The Great Wall to pay much attention.
The landscape was hilly, the highway clogged with buses and cars. And this highway? It goes only to the Great Wall. The traffic was intense, dangerous and congested with drivers honking and coveting your space. The most insane traffic I have ever seen, and I have been around the world. From where we were, it would take us over an hour to get to the first navigable section of the wall.Yet it was a distance of less than 50 kilometres.
The Great Wall was over 6,000 km, but much of it is crumbling. The section closest to Beijing consists of a trap made for the enemy, but once you climb to the top of that section, you can see the rest of the wall. Providing you aren't wheezing too badly, like I was. It was a steep, irregular climb best done in sections and at times, thick with people. We saw one small boy topple down it for a few metres. He'd been acting up and received a few good scrapes for his misbehavior.
At the base are the requisite souvenir shops, closely watched by vendors who call out the cost of trinkets despite their obvious price tags. I wasn't able to haggle for the small statue I bought, but one lady in our group had been more fortunate.
But the exhilaration remains. I have climbed the Great Wall of China! At the base, I am asked to pose for a photograph, something that would become normal in the next week, as those from smaller villages see Europeans so infrequently.
The day has been good, and tomorrow we fly to Xi'an, a city know for another great wonder of China.