Dying on the Wall
From Simatai to Jinshanling, 10 km along one of the most spectacular stretches of the Wall, through 20+ towers, up and down stairs and across crumbly rubble. Close to tower 21, workmen were repairing a section of the wall: evidently a job that continues from the time of the first emperor. Our local guides (farmers from a village — ironically on the barbarian side of the wall — who earn a little extra money by escorting hikers and hawking postcards) pointed out several bricks in the wall that are inscribed with the official Ming era seal of approval.
The day was hazy, with a breeze that cooled us down at periodic rest stops. I am, sadly, one of the slowest in our group, as steady walking on flat land at sea level hasn't gotten my lungs in shape for the ascents. I had frequent flashes of that last scene in Yang Warriors: Si Lang, sprawled on his back on the Wall, utterly exhausted from the ordeal of living a double life in the Liao camp and unable to return home to his family. That's exactly how I felt (well, maybe without the arrow in my chest, but there were a few times during the hike when that would have been a relief).

As at Mutianyu last year, I was bemused that the Chinese would set the wall steps so far apart: it's quite a scramble for short people!

Despite the haze, the views are astonishing. For some bizarre reason, before I got to Beijing my camera setting got changed to "cyanotone" (whatever the hell that is; must read the manual...) and I did not notice until after today's hike, so I have some creative images to play with. But here are a few photos (taken in weather conditions we definitely did not experience) scanned from the postcards I bought from my local companion:
We spent the night at the Jinshanling Guest House (only game in town), which is a charming collection of buildings, surrounded by gardens of lilies and decorated with faux Chinese paintings, but which lacks some internal amenities. Our room has a sauna, inside the bathroom, but the shower head is in the center of the room rather than in a stall, so everything gets soaked. The knob for my bed light was missing, so I decided to go to sleep rather than write in my journal.

Jinshanling is small and quiet; I suppose many of the locals have jobs at the Wall and guest house facilities. We took little strolls in small groups up a hill to the village and investigated the livestock: dogs, pigs, chickens, a donkey. From our courtyards we could catch glimpses of the Wall towers as night falls, and early the next morning.

Next day: on to Chengde.
Jinshanling guest house and village shrine

Next: Summer with the Manchus

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