We had an early start as we made the trek north out of the city to the Juyong Guan section of the wall. After approximately a 45 minute drive, we stopped at a local jade establishment. We learned about the varying details about mining, carving, and grading Chinese jade. Again, no luck on the souvenir front, but did enjoy some of the larger pieces they had in their showroom.
Shortly thereafter, we arrived at the wall. This section of the wall featured an easy climb to the right and a challenging climb to the left. Several of us, mostly the younger ones of the group, headed left.
What an experience. We were very fortunate both the day before and this day to have clear skies which is very uncommon for Beijing. The climb was
challenging but worth the strain as we made it to the highest battery along that section of the wall. I did pick up a small souvenir; a wooden plaque with my name that certifies that I climbed the wall (ok, sure, but it is very nice). Additionally, because of the time of year, and time of day, we missed almost all the crowds and practically had the wall to ourselves. One of my travel dreams was completed as I was able to quietly hike the wall and have a moment of travel bliss.
The hike down was almost as challenging as up, but finished well. We loaded back onto the bus and headed for lunch which again featured Chinese dishes in a family style of serving.
After lunch, we headed to the Ming Tombs. This was an interesting experience as only one of the tombs has been excavated and the rest remain intact. Therefore, you can see most of the structures, but you aren't able to visit the tombs themselves. The setting was serene and after visiting the location of Chang Ling tomb, we traveled to the Sacred Way which was used to precede the bodies of the dead emperor to his final resting location. Along the Sacred Way were 12 pairs of larger-than-life original stone statues believed to guard the way from evil spirits. The final structure housed a stone turtle dragon stella which if you rubbed his head was good health and if you rubbed his rear good wealth.
It was an adventurous day. I returned to the hotel and crashed, sleeping for nearly 11 hours with the jet lag finally catching up with me. That, and the exhaustion of hiking the wall.