This is a Great Wall

Beijing Travel Blog

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I was woken up at 6am this morning by my hostel's staff. I rushed to get ready as the minibus driver waited outside with the rest of his passengers. Within minutes, the bus was on the road, crawling ever so slowly through the Beijing morning traffic. After about two hours, it finally felt like we had exited the city and entered the surrounding countryside. The road was impossibly flat and the bike lanes continued for almost 100km out of the city. Maybe I should have biked.

Three hours of driving later, we had covered the 150km to our destination. Where? The Great Wall, of course. I hooked up with some French travellers and hiked with them most of the day. We started in Jinshanglin and hiked along the wall for 10 km, to Simatai.

It was incredible! This was definitely something everyone should see in their lifetime. The wall snakes along jagged cliffs, clinging to the hills at dangerous angles. Mongolian hordes on the left, Chinese civilization on the right. Guard towers abut the wall every few hundred metres. Throughout the hike we passed 30 towers in various states of disrepair. The colourful fall scenery was beautiful enough, but together with the wall the view was absolutly amazing.

I attracted quite a few smiles when the locals saw my choice of hiking equipment. Having to choose between my cleated bike shoes and my sandals, I wore the sandals. I also don't have a backpack with me, so I brought my food in a laundry bag which I carried on my shoulder (also known as a bindlestiff, or hobo-sack).

I was so excited to be on the wall that I probably could have gone barefoot with a shopping bag. I also brought my camera, which was well-used. I must have spent half my time up there taking photographs.

Certain sections of the wall are infamous for their huge crowds and endless merchants hawking cheesy wares. The sections that I hiked weren't exactly empty and there were a few merchants (especially on the Jinshanglin side), but it wasn't excessive. Some locals offered their services as guides, helping foreigners negotiate the more worn-down sections. I'm as sure-footed as a mountain goat, so obviously I didn't need any help. I ran up the steep sections as fast as I could and stopped at the top to admire the beautiful views while my heart calmed back down. It took four hours to complete the 10km hike, but it passed by in a flash. Hopefully, the memories will stay for much longer.

casey says:
Wow! I really wish I could have been there.
Posted on: Nov 02, 2007
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photo by: Eric