Thanks to the amazing, determined but eternally polite Yingchu both ourselves and Giles were road legal within 12 hours of us landing in China, which we were pretty surprised about so actually we had no further plans.
Yingchu suggested visiting a section of the Great Wall outside Beijing for a day before driving in to the city so we headed north from Tianjin and stopped late into the night at a rural Farm Stay. Farm Stay is a fairly broad term for somewhere that offers food or rooms or both and from what we gather encompasses everything from a makeshift bed in the family home with a share of their dinner to family run rural hotels. What we found was somewhere in the middle and in no time at all we were sitting down to a huge bowl of noodles and drinking warm sweet soya milk. This we’d been offered and politely accepted, assuming it was completely normal, before Yingchu explained it was more usually for breakfast and was perhaps being readied for the next day.
Full and absolutely shattered we headed to bed to discover that the mattress was almost non existent and the pillows were actually bean bags… we slept like the dead and woke to find we were already well into the hills near Jingshan Ling.
We visited a section of the wall built in the Ming dynasty and largely unrepaired since (though the ticket hall was new and immense and they’ve installed a bubble lift to get the less active/able near to the top). Already pretty excited we decided to walk up.
Over 4 hours later we were still ambling along on top of the wall (THE wall! The GREAT wall!!!) admiring the views, the handiwork, taking photos, and regularly exclaiming things like ‘it’s bonkers’. Because it is completely bonkers. Obviously the scale of the thing and the timescale it took and the landscape it sits in, but also the craftsmanship and attention to detail. For example, it has ventilation holes at various heights and regular intervals all along one side – v sensible when summer temperatures near 40•. Each of these ventilation holes has a hand carved decorative lintel – but they’re not even all the same, no, different sections were identifiable by different lintels – scalloped, diamond, knife etc. This all on top of a wall in some places tens of metres high, on top of a knife edge ridge line, in what is otherwise basically the edge of the middle of nowhere.
Eventually we relented and walked back down to the valley where we ate a very late lunch at another farm stay before piling into the truck and heading towards… Beijing!
Thanks to all the well wishers who’ve messaged already!