Hiking the Great Wall Jinshanling to Simatai - Never ending towers

No trip to China is complete without visiting the Great Wall, the ancient construction built to defend the country from Northern invaders. Most people opt for a day tour from Beijing but standing shoulder to shoulder and jostling for good photo spots with hoards of Chinese tourists on a group tour did not particularly appeal to me.

Looking for a more authentic experience we planned to hike from Jinshanling to Simatai and booked a home stay from recommendations from a forum. After a 4 hour train journey from Beijing to Gubeikou on hard wooden seats, we were greeted by an old lady warmly calling out our names on the station platform. She collected all of us (there were about 10 people) like a mother hen and proceeded to lead us to the village.

The old village home was frozen in time. It had a central courtyard with a firewood stove and dining area, surrounded by sleeping quarters. There was no running water, instead you had to pump the water with a waterpump. The toilet was just a hole in the corner of the house, and taking a warm "shower" involved boiled water and a bucket. Despite the simplicity of the house, dinner here was like dinner with grandparents, with many delicious home cooked dishes and many interesting stories shared.

The next morning we woke up nice and early, had a hot and scrumptious breakfast and were packed into a van together with 2 new found local friends; we went chasing after sunrise on Jinshanling. We ran up the hill to get onto the wall in the nick of time.

We did not see any other hikers on this section of the wall that day, it was very nice to enjoy some quiet and freedom in this country of over 1 billion. The wall followed the contour of the mountains, at places impossibly steep. It was mostly un-restored, we passed through many towers, some in good condition, some tumbled down into rubble. Keeping score of these towers became more and more difficult, as we clambered up one tower only to find more steep hills in front of us. 

We were walking along, joking with each other, when a lady suddenly sprang up, as if she was lying in ambush. Having heard about hawkers trying to sell souvenirs on the wall, we tried to wave her away initially. She turned out to be a ticketing official - we had just crossed over the border from the Jinshanling region to the Simatai region and needed to pay the entrance fee.

We spent about 6 hours on the wall altogether. It was about 10.5km and we passed through 43 watchtowers. We were ravenous when we got back to the farmhouse and were ecstatic to find a delicious hot meal waiting for us. It was beyond expectation and we only paid a meagre 45 RMB (about $9 AUD) for 1 night accommodation, 3 hot meals and warm hospitality! I would highly recommend doing this instead of a day tour. 

1 comment :

  1. Yes dear, you are right. Visiting the Great Wall is a wonderful must for the first-time guests to Beijing China. China's Great Walls is the lengthiest structural framework and is widely well known as one of the seven great wonders of the world. Climbing the Great Walls is a must experience for your journey to Beijing. There is a saying in China that you won't become an idol until you ascend the Great Walls.