The air was amazingly hot. The Weather Channel had forecasted Beijing and the surrounding areas to have a high in the upper 80s this whole week, today was no different. Yet, for some reason, our walk on the famed Great Wall of China was also mixed with a slight breeze from the north that made the walk much easier to bear.
One of the unrestored towers early on in the hike. If you look carefully, you can see a woman that was screaming at the top of her lungs from this tower. We still heard her 5 towers into the hike...
Today, we hiked the Jinshaling and Simatai sections of the Great Wall of China. On a walk totaling near 8 km (approx. 5 miles), both sections of the wall represent the wall in its un-restored, raw state after years and years of wear and tear by weather and human forces. This section of the wall is the lesser known of the other sections simply because it is a little more strenuous, but most tour books agree that if you want to see the real Great Wall and have the real experience of climbing the wall, this is the place to go.
You also don’t really have a true understanding of the Great Wall of China and its significance on the history of not only China, but the world until you’re face-to-face, walking on the very stones that manual servants laid there centuries before. Walking from tower to tower, stair to stair, one finally realizes just how much effort and labor went into building this wall, all for the sake of protection from the unknown enemy.
The walk was strenuous, that much was for sure. Some places had been scuffed up badly and eroded away while other places simply had stairs missing where they should’ve existed. The degree of slope involved even reached peaks to nearly 80 degrees, causing us to climb on all fours at some points. Some of the buildings and stairs looked very decrepit also. At some points, we had to watch out because one wrong step would land you on a loose rock and cause you to tumble to the ground. This actually happened to one person in our group. After a while though, you get used to the smooth rock, and you can determine which ones to step on and which ones to avoid.
Simatai ends with a rather nerving walk across a suspension bridge, followed by a breathtaking view of Simatai lake which formed through the building of several dams. By now, the hike had left our legs tired, and our hopes even more defrayed, but China has a way of repaying its debts. At the very end, for a mere 40 RMB (approx. $6 US), they will zip line you from over 1,000 feet in the air across the lake to the finish line. That was probably the most rewarding experience of the whole day. There’s nothing like resting your legs from that strenuous hike gliding through the air at a couple miles per hour. I actually almost wish I could just cut the rope over the lake and fall in and swim to shore, but alas, that was not meant to be.
What you also don’t notice, is how many new people you meet on trips like these and how, even though people may come from different backgrounds, they all share the same common goal: to see the world and experience new things from different perspectives. Just in our group alone, I got to befriend a senior from Rutgers, a new professor at Univ. of Texas-Austin,
The unrestored portion of the Great Wall where plants have taken back over where once was bare stone.
a cyclist, honeymooners, and several world travelers. In fact, Althea, Lionel, and Mary may be people I met randomly while hiking my way through the wall, but they’ll forever be remembered as the awesome people I met on the Great Wall of China, and really, how often can you say something like that in your life?
Even though the hike is strenuous and tiring, meeting new people was just one of the ways that made the trip even more rewarding, and in the end, worth every jiao of the money I paid. And in the end, even more rewarding was the spectacular views we had that day. The weather was beautiful, the plants were plentiful, and the combination was perfect for the perfect hike. Perhaps one day, I can come back to Jinshanling and Simatai and actually climb the whole length of the Great Wall, that would be a feat in itself.