Some of the others in my group headed to a more remote section of the Wall but since there were no other tourists at our hotel, I opted to hike up the mountain that was just across the road. Within an hour I was on the wall and for most of the next five hours I had the place all to myself, except for some butterflies and amazing songbirds. At times I heard voices in the distance but I only saw four people before it started to get dark. Two were locals and two were German tourists who appeared to be lost but too stubborn to ask for help. This unique experience – having the wall to myself, not the lost Germans – was only possible because we had driven about 300 km out of Beijing – far beyond the parking lots filled with tour buses and pushy souvenir vendors.