Monday, 13 April 2009

Beijing: Jinshanling to Simatai Great Wall

During the our break for the National Day holiday, we hiked along the Great Wall, choosing the most section described by Lonely Planet as 'invigorating', presumably because you feel lucky to be alive at the end of it! It is the least touristy and least renovated section of the Wall. We hiked for about 10km, although I swear that with the about of up-and-downing we were doing it felt like twice the distance!

At this point, I had only been in China for a little over a week, and my friends had been here for a month. When I look back on that first trip to Beijing, it's strange to remember how timid we all were, and how strange and confusing the city was to us, when now we think nothing about skedadling around it by ourselves. The rest of the post is adapted from my journal.

It's a strange feeling (like the Pyramids at Giza) of amazement at being there, rather than looking at a photo and being overwhelmed and underwhelmed at the same time (one is still one's quotidian self after all).

The lushness of colourness and the freshness of the air were remarkable. I think I would appreciate the big, sweeping vistas even more after spending most of the last seven months in big cities.

The views were beautiful, and there was the feeling of oddness at walking over something so old, that so many others have tramped along too. Wondering what the unfortunates who made the wall (legends have it that the wall is filled with the bones of workers who died) thought of it, and how soldiers coped with the vertiginous ascents and descents when wearing armour.

We'd stop to rest in the watchtowers. The one's that were more restored gave welcome shade too, although we'd have to fight off the vendors trying to sell us water or beer. (Beer?! Are some of the people walking this thing suicidal?)

When the Chinese say unrestored they certainly mean it - I nearly cried walking down here. Apart from fear of heights, another annoyance was the hawkers that seemed to stalk their prey at the most strenous ascents - seriously lady, do you think I'm going to buy your mangy postcards when I'm wondering whether it's falling down and breaking my neck or a heart attack that's going to finish me off?

The lake at the end of our hike, and guess who didn't enjoy the suspension bridge! My friends took a zip line across the water, but I walked down because I think that otherwise I might have actually passed out from fear.

Take a day trip somewhere new.


  1. Breathtaking photos. I don't know anybody who doesn't consider a visit to China (Great Wall) one of life's must do.

    I have a friend who's teaching English in China; she's on her 5th year I think.

  2. So brave of you all to have chosen the most difficult path. It was a great read and probably I too would have been scared of the hanging bridge.

  3. Breathtaking is absolutely right! Stunning! These photos truly took my breath away! Incredible!

  4. I visited the great wall once and climbed the most touristic part, that was difficult already. You photo are amazing. Looking at the people around you in Beijing, can you really imaging million of them building the wall this many years ago. I think that is Chinese history. It is not dead, it is still alive.

  5. Wonderful! So so far away from my world right now, glad it reminded you of home.

  6. That is one of the places I'd want to visit before I die. Spectacular photographs!

  7. brave soul you were to walk along the un-restored section. very scarey. i love china and it vastness and think the best part is the undeveloped countryside.
    thanks for sharing with us...enjoyed.

  8. Wow. Great. I haven't been there..

  9. Wonderful photos. I enjoyed the wall too although 10km hikes were out for me. It is very impressive and has the feeling of a lay line with so many people having walked there over the centuries.

  10. Oh J, what an amazing view!!! I think I would have to stay there for a forever moment! Just looking down that steepness and into the waters, watching the wall go on forever - oh, you certainly brought me right into your adventure, so a big thanks for sharing! If I ever get to China, this is a must-visit!!

  11. Wow! What an experience. I have goosebumps thinking about being there, walking on something nearly everyone has seen pictures of and has so much history.

    I don't like the idea of all the vendors, though. That would get on my nerves.

  12. That sounds like quite the adventure. Lovely photos. I really like the first one.
    I'll probably never get to walk the Great Wall, but this was the next best thing.