Friday, November 25, 2011

Return To The Juyongguan Great Wall

After a summer of posting about our lives this year in China, the one missing piece was any report about a jaunt out to the Great Wall. In recent years, we have jostled with the crowds at famous Great Wall tourist sites. We have discovered piles of rocks that are the remnants of the Yuan Dynasty version of the Great Wall. But, in the summer of 2011, the Great Wall was conspicuously absent from our itinerary. Absent, that is, until our last full day in China, when we decided that we simply couldn't get on a plane without setting foot somewhere on the collection of towers, walkways, and barriers that has come to be known as the Great Wall.

And so our minds turned to Juyongguan. Juyongguan is the closest section of the Great Wall to Beijing. That sounds promising, given our time constraints. (There was some packing to do, after all!)

And Juyongguan is a kind of special place for us, as it was where we first set eyes on the Great Wall. We'll never forget, back in 2004, turning the corner on that mountain road, and everyone on the tour bus gasping in amazement as our first glimpse of the Great Wall came into view. Seven years later, including many times driving or taking a train right past past Juyongguan, it was high time for a return hike up our Great Wall laojia.

The only problem...There is not an easy way to get out to Juyongguan. As we discovered back in 2008, there are no public buses that go out to Juyongguan from Beijing city. It was during the process of that discovery that I briefly, embarrassingly, lost my temper.

Sure, we could hire a driver...but where is the fun and adventure in that!?

Much stronger in my ability to read Chinese characters now than three years ago, I logged onto bjbus.com, looking for evidence that perhaps there is indeed a bus that goes from the center city out to Juyongguan. Pretty quickly, I hit the jackpot, discovering a route that departs not far from our apartment and goes right out to the Juyongguan Great Wall.

And so, onto a local bus it was, for the ten minute ride out to the island in the middle of a busy Beijing avenue, where we were to get onto the long distance bus of our dreams.

Only problem...Standing there on the island, cars, taxis, and buses whizzing by, it became clear to me that the website had lied. From sign to sign I went, looking for the bus that would deliver us to the Juyongguan Great Wall. But nowhere were the magical characters...居庸关长城...to be found.

In the heat of the moment, thwarted once again in our effort to secure direct passage to Juyongguan, we jumped on a bus heading to Shahe. Shahe is a place way out at the northern edge of Beijing, a kind of small town in its own right. We were now in "make it up as you go along" mode!

At the crowded bus station in Shahe, I managed to keep my temper this time, and located a local bus that promised the Juyongguan Great Wall as its final stop. Of course, that was something like sixty stops later, but we were in full "have fun" mindsets, and so we went with it.

This bus was quite a thrill. Winding its way through the tiny villages that dot the countryside north of Beijing, we found ourselves on paved roads, then rutted dirt roads, then little shopping areas. There was even a place that had a structure that looked suspiciously like a mini US Capitol Building. (This prompted conversation about why we would bother leaving China when Washington, DC was so close...)

Something like two hours later (yes...two hours later!), the bus finally reached the end of the line, a small town called Nankou. With mountains ringing the town, we were close to the Juyongguan, but apparently still had several kilometers to go. (Moral of the story...Take advertised bus routes with a grain of salt...)

Out of options, we hired a driver to take us the rest of the way up. This turned out to be a good call, as our driver was friendly and she knew which bus we should take back from Juyongguan down to Beijing city. Turns out, the 68 Changping bus (not any other 68 bus that might work the streets of Beijing!) goes from Juyongguan itself down to the Longze subway station at the outskirts of Beijing. From there, we could take the subway back to the area of our apartment on Xueyuan Nan Lu. And sure enough, although it took a couple of hours, the return trip worked out just as advertised. All we had to do was walk past a throng of hei che drivers, all of whom were telling us..."No foreigners take that bus! Come on into my car!" That much sure was true...it was just us and our closest Chinese friends on the 68, but that's the way we like it anyways!

As for the drive up to Juyongguan, it only took a few minutes in that hired car, and there we were...at last! We had returned! We would indeed walk on the Great Wall in the summer of 2011...

~Steve

1 Comments:

At 4:49 AM, Blogger xiao zhao said...

Thanks for your information.
I plan to go to Ju Yong Guan in April 2013.

 

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