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Headlights on and engine roaring, the bus devours the morning silence. “Is this going to Jinshanling?” Nodding, the driver waves me aboard and I take my place, sleepy-eyed, in the second row. Our tour guide looks like he could use a strong cup of coffee.

Not many things merit a 5:00 a.m. start and an uncomfortable four-hour bus ride with terrible leg room. But it is my last day in Beijing and I have booked myself a trip to see the final item on my checklist: the Great Wall of China.

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