Beijing: Toboggan Down the Great Wall of China
Ah, the bucket list. Not just a 2007 film starring two old timers trying to do right by life, the term “bucket list” can also encompass one’s desire to see/do everything wonderful in this world before coming to an untimely demise. A standard bucket list will often include tantalising tidbits such as travel the world, ride a camel in Egypt and see the Northern Lights. It is also hard to find a bucket list without at least one of the Seven Wonders of the World being mentioned. These ancient and now modern wonders (thanks to an updated list in 2001) are often paramount to any traveller’s worldwide adventures, and can be found scrawled in spiral bound notebooks in hostels across the globe (yes, spiral bound notebooks are still are thing and not just for Harriet the Spy).
One of these impressive worldwide wonders is The Great Wall of China, and it would be remiss of anyone travelling in Beijing not to take a day to visit this large pile of bricks. Now, if you happen to have the same aptitude towards mathematics and geography as me, then you might not realise at first just how large this wall is. However, it’s safe to say that it is bigger than any wall you may have encountered thus far in your life. As a result, there are many different sections to traverse, and it can be tricky trying to work out the best way to take in this structure. While I cannot supply accurate information on all sections of the wall and give an unbiased take on which section to visit, I can say that the only thing better than walking along a monument that is possibly visible from the moon is taking a toboggan down a monument that is possibly visible from the moon.
If you are taking in the wall from the Beijing end of China, it is worth booking a tour that takes you out to the section at Mutianyu about 90 minutes north of the city. This area is less touristy than others and means that you probably won’t end up in a Chinese prison for putting chopsticks up obnoxious brats’ noses or punching their matching Hawaiian shirt-clad parents. Once there, you will find several different transport options for navigating the wall. This comes in handy for those who need an option that is easy on the hangover or those who consider hiking to be a fool’s pursuit.
You can take the cable car both ways, one way or take the greatest option in the world: cable car-toboggan. It surprises me that this is not mentioned in conjunction with the Great Wall more often: “Gliding like an eagle down one of the Seven Wonders of the World? Why yes, I have crossed that off my bucket list.” For 11 Aussie bucks you can be carried up the wall by a cable car and shot down after trundling along it in a slightly dodgier-looking toboggan. Walking back to the car park is always hard work; a sled ride is cool and easy on your hangover. Also, you can pretend you are part of the Jamaican bobsled team and yell: “Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, it’s bobsled time! COOL RUNNINGS!” (I take no responsibility for the odd looks you will incur while doing this).
While you may feel the need for speed, it is entirely likely that you will be stuck behind a small Chinese family who has decided to take the toboggan at a pace akin to time coming to a complete stop. If this happens, there is nothing for it but to cross your arms and zig zag slowly down the side of the mountain, taking in the sights with your mouth set in a grim line. It is therefore best to try to take this ride of your life early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Because to be honest, it’s not really worth bragging that you have been to the Great Wall of China unless you can call dibs on eins, zwei, dreing your way down the side of it faster than the speed of light.