Its the Great Wall, Charlie Brown
Simatai Travel Blog› entry 105 of 136 › view all entries
Today was the first of two trips that I would make to the Great Wall this week. This venture would be out to the Jinshanling and Simatai sections of the Wall. Of the touristy sections of the wall accessible from Beijing for the day this was the furthest afield and also the least developed. Up fairly early in order to pack my daypack and arrange the food I had purchased at the supermarket for lunch yesterday (and nibble on some of it for breakfast as well). Our bus was leaving from in front of the hotel at 7:00 AM for the nearly 3 hour drive out to the Jinshanling Great Wall.
Driving out of Beijing one realizes just how large the city is as the sprwaling highrises and highways extend well beyond the city center. Eventually we left Beijing behind as we headed northeast past the airport and out into the rolling countryside. As we approached Jinshanling we were definitely into the hills as we climbed the road to the parking lot. Got the tickets to the park (40 Yuan) and before we even got to the Wall proper we had a long, steep climb up the small mountainside. I realized that this wasn't going to be the easiest proposition in the world even with my Himalayan mountain legs still in my memory. But climb we did (no one wussed out and took the cable car to the top) and as was a frequent occurence on an excursion in China we had the tiny old ladies on our footsteps trying to sell us souvenirs and snacks.
The Jinshanling section of the wall was built in the late 16th century during the Ming dynasty. The Wall and towers in the immediate section of Jinshanling are in excellent condition after some more recent restoration work as can be seen in the photos. We were going to walk the 10 kilometers or so from Jinshanling to the Simatai section of the wall. At some point along the way we would stop and eat lunch on the Wall and then finish up the walk.
At first it wasn't too bad. The footing was good, some ups and downs, but not too bad. But that was just the beginning. Leaving the Jinshanling area behind we reached sections of the Great Wall that have been left pretty much in their "as is" state. Instead of stately watchtowers that offer protection from enemies and the like, these towers have collapsed and fallen into a state of disrepair over the centuries.
The views of the Wall and from the Wall are incredible. It took an incredible feat of engineering construction to build the Wall and to think that it stands in pieces and sections for hundreds of kilometers across the hills and mountains of northern China. We made slow progress over the 10 km between Jinshanling and Simatai. At some point we reached the dividing point between the two sections and had to pay the entrance fee to the Simatai section (another 50 Yuan). There was one final fee to pay to cross the bridge over the resevoir at the tail end of the walk (5 Yuan). All told it took us about 3.5 hours to walk the entire section. We passed through about 32 or 33 watchtowers through the course of the journey in various states of repair/disrepair.
After crossing the resevoir a side trail leads down to the Simatai parking lot. The Simatai Wall continues off to the east and one can hike that section of the Wall through another 13 towers. The area beyond contains some of the more amazing sections of the Wall (Wang Jing Tower, the Sky Bridge, the Heavenly Ladder, and Fairy Tower) however due to safety concerns it is not open to the public (the wall is narrow and there are steep drop offs to either side).
After walking back down off the Wall it was back to our bus that had made the transfer over to Simatai to pick us up. Back to Beijing on another 3 hour trip. Clean up and out to a restaurant for some Peking Duck. Then a walk down to the Wangfujing Night Market (unfortunately I had left my camera back at the hotel when leaving for dinner).
Grabbed some drinks on the street and enjoyed the company and people watching for a while before returning to the hotel and calling it day.