I have been planning to update my blog about The Great Wall of China long time ago as there is nothing aside from photographs in my previous ‘Multiply’ site (a moment of silence for multiply.com).
Today, I was browsing Instagram and saw several photos of The Great Wall and it inspired to start a ‘real’ blog about my trip.
Beijing is very special to me. It was my very first solo trip. Before this time (2008), I haven’t met any solo backpackers, so hearing stories in our dorm type hostel room from a 20-something yr. old Scottish guy who traveled from one country to another before reaching Beijing really caught my attention. It was something that was unheard of for me.
I stayed in Peking International Youth Hostel just beside the Forbidden City (how cool was that). In the hostel, they offered a tour/hike to the Great Wall of China. With this information I planned my itinerary around this, knowing that need to block a full day just for this trip.
It was called the Great Jinshanling-Simatai Hike. And at the time that I signed in, I kind of didn’t know how great this great hike will be. We gathered in the hostel lobby early in the morning (at around 8am) for our pick-up. Our minivan did a few more stops to nearby hostels to pick-up other hikers. We were around 12 all in all and our guide said that it was a good number.
At the assembly point, our guide made it clear to us that this hike is not easy, it will be very demanding and tiring but at the same time very rewarding. He said that there are other routes to climb and experience the wall. There are apparently buses which will bring you from one tower to another and also there is an option to ride a cable car. Although these are pretty easy routes, it is the most touristy options. The trek that we will take are far from the collection of tourists and we will be able to experience both the restored and the untouched areas—hence the tag ‘GREAT
Although we were aware of the challenges ahead, we started walking up the stairs of the Great Wall with ‘GREAT ENTHUSIASM’.
[blockquote source=”travelchinaguide.com”]The Great Wall was originally built in the Spring and Autumn, and Warring States Periods as a defensive fortification by the three states: Yan, Zhao and Qin. It went through constant extensions and repairs in later dynasties. It began as independent walls for different states when it was first built, and did not become the “Great” wall until the Qin Dynasty. Emperor Qin Shihuang succeeded in his effort to have the walls joined together to fend off the invasions from the Huns in the north. Since then, the Wall has served as a monument of the Chinese nation throughout history.[/blockquote]
Knowing the history of the Great Wall I was overwhelmed the moment I first stepped on it. This has been standing for centuries and became a witness of a number of victories, deaths and defeats. I can just imagine the time when it was being constructed. They said aside from war, people died building the wall that’s supposed to save them.
The Great Wall at Jinshanling is one of the best preserved parts of the wall with many original features still intact. It is a remote and relatively isolated section of the Great Wall and has not been repaired since 1570
Being one of the remotest sections of the wall, it was really a delight for our group to explore every bits and parts of it. I made this trek pre-selfie craze (and pre GoPro), I can just imagine how it would have been if we already have the gadgets that we are using today.
I brought my iPod (it was helpful) which gave a bit of a musical score in every step that I took and also my old Nokia phone which I don’t know the reason why I had it.
I love that although we have a guide, we can freely take our time in walking. With the scenic views surrounding us (literally from everywhere), we surely need to take all in and don’t want to miss anything.
After a few kilometers, exhaustion kicked in. It was summer in China that time and we were hiking at the top of the wall at noon (I think you can already imagine that). But meeting new friends and supporting one another was another aspect that this trip became very memorable.
Moving forward, climbing 100 step stairs to reach towers after towers, I started to get a glimpse of how huge the wall is. Although debunked, there was a time when everyone thought that you can see the Great Wall of China from the moon.
When our guide told us that what we were seeing on one side is Mongolia, it felt so surreal. You can hear a lot of ooooos and wows whenever we would pass a tower and see what is awaiting for us on the next segment of the trip.
[blockquote source=”chinatravel.com”]There are three special features that sets Simatai Great Wall apart, and which surely contributed to the UNESCO decision to recognize this section of the Great Wall as a unique cultural heritage: it incorporates special style elements from the numerous other sections of the Great Wall; it has preserved, for the most part, its original Ming period refortification (this is the original work commissioned by General Qi Jiguang), both of which features make the Simatai section a uniquely representative section of the Ming period Great Wall); and the military crews that conducted the work commissioned by General Qi left their mark on the wall, quite literally, in the form of stamps that identified the individual military unit..[/blockquote]
Aside from the Jinshanling, we also climbed the Simatai section of the Great Wall of China. As mentioned at the beginning of the blog, I took this trip last 2008 and I was fortunate to experience the full hike of the Simatai Great Wall. Since 2010, it was announced that the Simatai trail will be closed for restoration and now only the west section of the wall is open for the public. Compared to the Jinshanling, Simatai has narrower and steeper trails. In 1987, it was acknowledged by UNESCO as one the World Heritage Sites, something I was excited about when I heard that (my University thesis was about Heritage Conservation ^^).
After climbing around 30 watchtowers on a zigzag rough trail and almost 6 hours of hike, I was not sure if I will be excited to know that we will start our way down the wall. First, it meant that we finished exploring and it’s time to say bye, and second, I think I can’t walk anymore further, even if gravity will help.
But to our surprise, if we spent 6 hours hiking up, we will only spend 6 minutes going down———-BY A ZIP LINE! (and it is known as one of the must-try zip lines in the world).
It was an awesome trip and for sure I will tell my grandchildren that I was able to climb ‘That Famous Wall’. And to cap the whole trip, I got a medal proving that I have survived the whole hike (I paid for it, but well, I can still use it to brag).
Do you want to know how to make this trip happen? Watch this space, I will share information on HOW TO MAKE THIS TRIP HAPPEN soon.
Original Blog Post Dated: 27 May 20080