China #6 Section 1 Walk on the Wall (10/09/2015)

This Walk on the Wall is About Helping Others to Help Themselves

http://www.everydayhero.com.au/event/50kmFor50Years

By now our team of seventeen had learned each other’s names, seen a little of Beijing and rested after the long flight from Australia. But the time had come to begin the task of testing ourselves on a tough five day walk along the Great Wall of China in our bid to raise funds to help students who are doing it tough in life while they study for their degree. 

So let the walk begin.

Entrance Sign DSC00364 © DY of jtdytravels

Entrance Sign DSC00364 © DY of jtdytravels

The Great Wall of China is 21,196 km in length. Yes! Twenty-one thousand one hundred and ninety-six kilometres (21,196km; or 13,170mi). That’s the precise total length of the Great Wall, the whole of which was included as a World Heritage Site in 1987. But, yes, you’re right. We weren’t going to attempt to walk all of that! In fact, this trek would cover approximately 50 km of the Wall. And then there were more kilometres to be walked up and down hills just to get onto and off the wall each day. We’d been warned that the parts of the Wall that we were to walk are not for the faint hearted; constant ups and downs; many, many steps of varying sizes and steepness of incline. Some restored parts; others parts we would find to be very rough.

We began our walk at the Taipingzhai Gate, part of the ‘Huangyaguan Great Wall’, located in a scenic but precipitous mountain area 120km from Beijing. This section of the Wall is 42 km (26 miles) long; constructed along a mountain ridge at an altitude of about 736 m (2,415 ft). It’s part of, but really just a fraction of, the 8,850 km (5,500 mi) of the wall that was built during the Ming dynasty(1368–1644). Everything about the wall is BIG.

DSC00368 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00368 © DY of jtdytravels

The very first set of steps tested our fitness. I, for one, was glad that I had trained hard.

Until 1987, much of the wall here was in a bad state of repair. However, from 1984 – 1987, the people of the nearby city of Tianjin repaired just over 3 km of the main wall. This was the section of the wall we traversed for this first day of our wall trek. This was to ‘break us into’ wall walking. It’s one thing to train on tracks and on roads, but these are steep steps!

DSC00366 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00366 © DY of jtdytravels

Scott celebrates making it to the watch tower at the top of the first set of steps.

This section of the Wall was begun during the Northern Qi Dynasty (550 – 557), that’s over 1,400 years ago.  In those days the wall was mainly built from locally sourced earth, stones and wood.  Such a wall could withstand attack by simple weapons like swords, spears and bows. However, over the years, warfare changed and by the time of the Ming Dynasty, (1368- 1644), gunpowder had become available. From then on methods of warfare changed radically. Soldiers began to use cannons and muskets. It became more and more obvious that a much more solid wall was needed.

DSC00361 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00361 © DY of jtdytravels

Statue of Qi Jiguang

In 1558, the chief commanding officer of the area’s garrison, Qi Jiguang, was charged with the task of repairing the wall with stone and bricks. He had six extra watch towers built which vary in style from square to round, and from solid to hollow; some inside the wall, others outside. The work was done by manual labour and many lives were lost.

Despite the loss of life and the extremely hard work in this difficult terrain, the local people felt so indebted to Commander Qi Jiguang for his great contribution to the peace and stability of the area, that they honoured him with an impressive statue.  I believe that this 8.5m statue is a newer statue placed at the start of this section of the wall, maybe at the completion of the reconstruction in the 1980s.

Qi Jiguang was revered not just a wall builder. In 1553, at the age of 26, before he started the wall reconstruction, he was given the task to “punish the bandits and guard the people”. In effect that meant taking on the “Japanese” pirates which were attacking China’s east coast. This part of the wall is not far from the coast.  A Biography of Qi Jiguang states that:

“When he started, the tide was against him for the local troops were inadequately manned, poorly trained and easily bested by the trained and armed pirates… (But) Qi lead his troops to victories even in situations where he was outnumbered. In the next ten years he kept the pressure up agains the pirates… He (eventually) defeated forces that had earlier decimated Chinese fighters by developing four innovations: he upgraded his equipment; began vigorous and organized troop training; strengthened his defensive tactics and trained for organized and concentrated manuevers.”

(http://www.plumpub.com/info/Bios/bio qijiguang.htm)

Apparently, Qi’s wife assisted in some of those manoeuvres! Her story is part of the book “Biographical Dictionary of Chinese Women: Tang Through Ming, 618 – 1644” by Lily Xiao Hong Lee, Sue Wiles and M.E. Sharpe published in English in March 2014 (Amazon)

DSC00370 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00370 © DY of jtdytravels

Not all the remade sections were restored to the same degree. A bit tricky.

DSC00372 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00372 © DY of jtdytravels

” Stop and catch your breath” moments gave us time to enjoy the scenery.

DSC00369 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00369 © DY of jtdytravels

And, as usual, I was on the lookout for flowering plants.

DSC00373 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00373 © DY of jtdytravels

We were promised that this section was much easier than the rougher sections we would come to later in the week. But it was still not ‘a walk in the park’! It was still very much up and down hundreds of steps, following the ridge line. We were learning first hand that a trek on the Wall is not for the unfit or for the fainthearted! And this was just the first day.

DSC00374 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00374 © DY of jtdytravels

Signs along the way exhorted us to be careful and not to climb on the wall.

DSC00375 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00375 © DY of jtdytravels

It was strange to find ourselves walking on this historic Wall on our own.

We’d thankfully left the tourist hordes behind in Beijing.

And that was good… very good.

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DSC00376 © DY of jtdytravels

DSC00376 © DY of jtdytravels

By the time this photo was taken it was 19:33.

Almost time to get off the wall and climb down to the waiting bus.

It would be good to find a feed and a bed for the night.

More anon.

David

This Walk on the Wall is About Helping Others to Help Themselves

Thank you to all those who have already made a donation.

If you would like to help us to help others, our thanks to you also.

http://www.everydayhero.com.au/event/50kmFor50Years

{Click on “Sponsor a Friend” under the photo of the great wall

NB: Type in David to get to my donation page.}

If you would like to send this website on to others, please do so.

www.dymusings.com

All photographs copyright © David Young  of  jtdytravels

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The Orkneys, 8th August 2012

The second group of Viking Islands that we visited were the Orkneys, which on a clear day can be seen from the northern tip of Scotland.  As we flew over these islands, they appeared even greener than the Shetlands.

Leaving the Shetlands behind (P1000476 © DY of jtdytravels)

The Orkneys consist of about 70 islands of which 20 are inhabited.  The total population is 20,100.  The islands are not hilly, the highest point, Ward Hill, is only 481 metres high. However, the coastline is often rugged and these rugged cliffs provide a wonderful habit for sea birds to nest and roost.

The islands are generally treeless. That’s really nothing new as deliberate deforestation took place prior to the Neolithic period, about 4,000 BC in this part of the world.

Although The Orkneys are located 59°N, the climate is temperate with an average winter temperature of 4°C and an average of 12°C in summer.  However, this does not take into account the wind chill factor, there often being strong gales in the area.  As with the Shetlands, the islands are often shrouded in fog during the summer months.

Hunter-gather communities existed on the islands by about 3,900 BC.  These early inhabitants left behind chambered tombs, standing stones and stone circles. One we visited was Maeshowe, a burial mound that can only be visited with a guide.  Our guide turned up exactly on time but he looked very glum and disinterested.  This was another case of ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’. He turned out to have a wicked sense of humour as he delivered his spiel.

Maeshowe (P1000488 © DY of jtdytravels)

There’s not a lot to photograph at Maeshowe but its story was interesting. It’s one of the largest tombs in Orkney and is thought to have been constructed around 2,800 BC .  The mound is 7.3m high and 35m in diameter.  There is a 14m wide ditch surrounding the mound.  Under the grass mound is a complex of passages and chambers built out of flagstones weighing up to 30 tons.  The entrance passage is 11m long and is aligned so that the sun, at the winter solstice, shines on the back wall of the central chamber.  This tunnel is only 90cm high which requires visitors to virtually crawl on all fours to get to the central chamber.  The chamber is roughly 4.6m square and currently is 3.8m high although it is thought it could have originally been 4.6m high or even more.  It has a corbelled roof.

Excavations at Skara Brae  (P1000518 © DY of jtdytravels)

Next on our list of ancient piles of stones to be visited was Skara Brae, an early settlement of the cluster type.  This was really a very significant pile of stones.  It was uncovered by a fierce storm in 1850.  The old village had been preserved under the coastal sand dunes for 5000 years.  The homes that were uncovered contained furnished rooms with stone beds and dressers.  Skara Brae has been inscribed on the World Heritage List of the World Cultural and National Heritage Convention because of its exceptional universal value.  Skara Brae is northern Europe’s best preserved Neolithic village.

Skara Brae (P1000520 © DY of jtdytravels)

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The Standing Stones of Stenness (P1000506 © DY of jtdytravels)

Standing Stones of Stenness are not far from Skara Brae.  Originally, there were 12 stones laid out in an ellipse with a diameter of about 32m.  The stones are approximately 300mm thick and stand up to about 5m in height.  A couple have been destroyed by lightning strikes and a farmer, in December 1814, decided to remove the stones altogether as people were trespassing on his land to get to them.  After toppling a couple of the stones, public outrage prevented him from further damaging the stones.  The site is thought to date from at least 3000 BC.

The Standing Stones of Stenness (P1000508 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Crops almost ready for harvest (P1000497 © DY of jtdytravels)

While out exploring, we saw many, many fields of flourishing crops, many of them just on the point of harvest.

Lush green pastures fed healthy cattle (P1000496 © DY of jtdytravels)

These crops are all used ‘on the farm’ to feed animals during the winter months.  What a waste – perhaps all this output should be going to feed those who go to bed hungry each night rather than feeding animals for the tables of the rich!  And, what about all the corn and sugar cane being grown in other parts of the world to produce fuel for our hungry motor vehicles?  Don’t get me started!

As to other Orkney income earners – fishing has declined in recent times with the industry now concentrating on herring, lobsters, crabs and other shellfish and the farming of salmon.  Whisky, beer, beef, and cheese now feature in the islands exports.  Of growing importance is the development of wind and marine energy resources.

Birds-foot Trefoil [Lotus corniculatus] (P1000493 © DY of jtdytravels)

Whilst walking around the standing stones etc. there was plenty of opportunity to see and photograph wild flowers (and weeds!) growing in the surrounding meadows.

Dandelions add colour to the pasture (P1000501 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Heather [Colluna vulgaris] (P1000503 © DY of jtdytravels)

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Phacelia tanacetifolia (P1000509 © DY of jtdytravels)

Indigenous to NW America – a naturalised weed of meadows

A thistle provides food for this fly (P1000510 © DY of jtdytravels)

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A white thistle (P1000512 © DY of jtdytravels)

I liked what I saw of The Orkneys. Another day of exploring here was still to come.   D