We were running out of time before we had to leave Beijing and we still hadn’t got a sniff of the ‘Great Wall’. There was no way we could leave China without at least seeing it but at the same time we didn’t want to do the sections nearest Beijing which are crowded and apparently not as scenic as you would want. We wanted the iconic ‘I have been on the wall photos’ but with as little effort as possible. Firstly we decided we wouldn’t take a guided tour with a lot of other wall watchers as this would entail getting up early and as a family we don’t do early. As I said we didn’t have much time so I fished out the number of a guy called Kevin (real name probably something like Shu Chang) we had met the previous day in the Forbidden City who arranged cars to do the wall.
The car picked us up after lunch that day which was great at such short notice. When we got into the car the first thing I said to the guide was that we didn’t want to be brought to any factory’s on the way or returning from the wall. They do this with all the tours, bring you to some cloisonné or silk factory and leave you to be subjected to the hard sell of the factory sales people. I told them I had been to enough factories in China without being brought to these fleece merchants and that I wouldn’t do it under any circumstances. They weren’t having any of it and the conversation went back and forwards between myself Lisa, the driver and the guide. They explained to us that it was part of their job that they had to bring us and that they couldn’t do anything about it, we told them we would go only if we stepped into the factory and stepped out again thus fulfilling their obligations and getting us on our way as soon as possible. They said that this wasn’t possible. Finally I asked them what sort of commission did their boss make on stranding his tour customers in these pressure cooker factories. It worked out at about €20.00 so I told them I would pay the extra twenty, but no bloody factories. They made a call to their boss, he okayed the plan and the no bloody factories tour was born. The price which had started out at €40.00 including factories now became €60.00 without but for us it represented good value for a private car to do the 180 kms round trip and an a few hours hanging about while we did our thing .
The guide had been trying to get us to go to Badaling , a particular section of the wall that is used by all the tour groups and hotels and a little closer to Beijing but after hearing how jam packed it is with tourists all day we knew we didn’t want to see this part . Ok so it is a longer stretch then where we were going but with two kids we were planning no hikes .We had been speaking to a guy from Holland the previous day and he mentioned he had been to a part of the wall in Mutianyu in Huairou County , 90kms northeast of Beijing . This place had a cable car up to the top and a slide similar to what you see in a children’s playground but about a half kilometer long which you got down in a sledge with controllable breaks . We had to do it this way. No way was Axel going to miss the longest playground slide in the world and we didn’t want to either!
It was a Friday so the traffic was going to be hell and we didn’t want to hike huge sections of the wall or spend hours on it so we had to promise the guide and driver that we would spend about an hour or so there. So off we set at 2pm arriving shortly after 3.30 pm , we had made it through the traffic, got through the hawkers at the base of the wall and onto the cable car up to the wall all before 4.15pm . The last slide down is at 5pm so that left us plenty of time to have a little walk without any crowds and get some shots. Most of the wall you see in the tourist photographs has been rebuilt or fixed up in some way or other and this was no exception. It was exactly what we wanted.
We got the photo of the wall snaking off into the distance behind us. Then we hopped onto our slides and we were out of there, wheeeeeeeeeee! ‘The Great Wall Lite’…..the only way to see it with kids .