Where We Be
This is the dramatic Juyongguan Pass portion of the Great Wall near Beijing.
Hiking a portion of the Great Wall has long been on our bucket list.
The Great Wall
On a blessedly sunny morning, we climb the
Great Wall as high as it will let us go. We’re at
the Juyongguan Pass portion of the Great Wall
about an hour's drive north of Beijing. It's a
dramatic and picturesque section, not quite as
crowded as the more famous Badaling portion.
After a group photo at the base, we're given 1½
hours to explore the Great Wall on our own.

Just standing on the Great Wall gives us
goosebumps. It’s one of those things we simply
felt we had to do in our lives -- and here we are!
The lowest portion is the steepest. Each stair is
a big step, so it’s a good workout. Every once in
awhile we pause to catch our breath at one of
the seven watchtowers along the way. The
steps become more shallow as we near the top,
even turning into ramps in places. At last, after
some hard slogging, we reach the seventh and
final watchtower. Climbing ladder-like steps
inside the tower, we reach the top and look
down at the wall curving gracefully below us.
The people just starting up look tiny from here.
Signal towers like this were built on hilltops to warn of enemies by means of smoke or fire
More of this please!
We climb ladder-like steps inside the seventh and final tower to the top
Each lock is placed there by a young couple who throws away
the key in the hopes their love will be locked together forever
After a quick group photo at the base of the Great Wall, we start climbing!
Almost immediately we come across an interesting sight: hundreds of padlocks attached to chains
that run along the right-hand side of the wall. These “love locks” signify everlasting marriage.
Bus Chat #1:
On Counting and Elderly Happiness
On the hour-long bus ride back to Beijing, our
guide keeps us entertained by showing us how
to count to ten the Chinese way -- with one
hand. We also learn a few elementary Chinese
characters. We’re pleased to learn the Chinese
symbols for the U.S. mean “beautiful country.”
The symbols for China mean “Middle Kingdom.”

These bus rides, it turns out, are a great chance
for us to learn more about Chinese culture. “It
sometimes seems to us Chinese as if only the
elderly are truly happy,” our guide tells us.
“Children and teenagers are too busy studying,
and adults are too busy working, so it’s only the
elderly who have time to enjoy life.” We learn
that only a third of students make it to college
(it used to be 10%), and that grades 1-9 are free
but parents have to pay for further education.
Terracotta warriors guard the Wall these days -- but imagine a time when real
guards were posted at watchtowers to keep an eye out for invading hordes
Amazingly, the Great Wall stretches for some 5,500 miles (8,850 km)!
This section near Beijing is one of the best preserved and most picturesque.
Climb, Robin, climb! As you can probably tell, we had a great time
climbing the Wall -- something that was definitely on our bucket list.
We relax a bit more on the way down