July 29, 2007 - Great Wall of China
We were picked up at 7:15 am from our driver and Kathrin. We decided to go to the Jinshangling
part of the Wall and from there hike to Simatai. This part of the Wall is a little further away from
Beijing, about 120 km, and not one of main tourist places of the Wall, meaning fewer people, tourists
and hawkers. Our driver was driving like a maniac once he was outside of Beijing and on to those
narrow 2 lane roads. Every time he couldn't see, he would pass other cars. Our guide actually got sick
and the driver had to stop as she had to throw up...
Once at Jinshanling, we paid our
entrance fee and walked towards
the wall which was towering above
us. Many elderly women followed
us trying to sell everything from
water to beer to T-shirts. They
followed us pretty much the entire
hike. At the beginning of the
stairs up to the Wall, we said
good-bye to our guide. She had
never walked more than a couple
of miles at one time in her entire
life and she thought we were
crazy! She and the driver were
going to meet us at Simatai.
The initial climb up to the wall on stairs was quite strenous and Marc had some trouble breathing,
mainly because of the crappy air. Although up here it was much much better than in Beijing, the air
was still hazy. The hike to Simatai took us a little over 4 hours. Initially, there were more ups and
then, the last part towards Simatai, it was steeply downhill.
I understood why pretty much everybody was going from Jinshanling to Simatai and not the other
way, as it would have been much more uphill. Once at Simatai, we crossed a hanging bridge for
which we had to pay a small fee. From here, we had to climb up parts of the Simatai ridge to get to
the trail which lead to the parking lot, still more than a km away from the Wall.
We found our driver in the parking lot and soon drove back to Beijing. After a while, the road was
closed and we had to take several detours through the country side, through riverbeds, fields, etc. We
got stopped by a huge sheep herd and also by a herd of cows. People were bathing in the river which
to me looked quite dirty. It took us almost 3 hours to get back to Beijing. Marc and I were tired. We
showered, had dinner in the hotel restaurant and went to bed at 8 pm. We both woke up around 2:30
am and could not sleep anymore. Jetlag, Day 3, worst night.
Another interesting observation (at least I think it is interesting) that there were absolutely no
Chinese tourists up there hiking the Wall. Only a few Europeans and some Australians. Overall we
saw maybe 30 - 40 people on the entire hike of about 13 km.
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