The last time I visited the Great Wall (July 2013), the weather was not on my side.
*Flashback 2 years: We trekked up to the summit at Badaling in the choking heat. Choking in a literal sense because the smog was so bad I felt like I’d been smoking 30-a-day since the age of 12 and I could hardly see my hand in front of my face.
So there was no hope in hell to spot the miles of mountains and the “wonder” of the largest man-made structure in the world, which took blood, sweat and thousands of lives to build, snaking into the distance.
It was a nightmare.
But ever the optimist and willing to give most things the benefit of the doubt, I went in for round two on my visit to China in 2015, in the hope that a second attempt would have me eating my words completely.
Once again, I was proved wrong.
*Cue a ton of selfies. Not sorry.
In sunshine and blue skies, we climbed the other end of the same segment of wall at Badaling from a different entrance. The more crowded part which I visited last time was over the hill and far away, I could see it weaving like a horrendous queue in the distance. The alternative entrance has a toboggan ride and cable car, which attracts tourists en-masse, making it very pushy and unpleasant in the heat.
This time, the space was much quieter. The views were literally breathtaking. For once, I’m actually struggling for things to say because it really was awe-inspiring. I could see the wall climbing and dropping over what looked like sheer mountain faces.
We walked, hiked, huffed and puffed all the way to the cloud-scraping look-out posts and just sat and gazed.
It was incredible.
…And I didn’t feel like I was about to be bowled over the side of the mountain by the boisterous Chinese teens (who like to dare each other to run down the steep slopes). BONUS!
China, you really are something. Warts and all.