|After fuelling up on a big breakfast, our bus picked us up from our hostel at 8:00am for the 4 hour drive to the Jinshanling section of the Great Wall, where we are starting our 10km hike to Simatai. A walk that our tour leader says will take about 4 hours to complete. We arrive at the wall, and she gives us the opportunity to skip the walk cause "it's really difficult.... sometimes you must climb on your hands and knees it is so steep"... perfect, just great, I think. Here I am petrified that my back is going to give out, and she's putting the fear of God into me about the difficulty of the hike. Our trip notes say a 'medium level of fitness' is required for the '6km walk' -now it's become "this particular section is really difficult, so you can go straight to the hostel if you like"!!!!
Of course we did the hike, and it was spectacular. Not only is the wall a magnificent piece of history and feat of engineering, it astounds me to think that this used to be the way that many got around... like a mini highway. The section that we climbed was mostly unrenovated and doesn't attract a lot of tourists. We thought it would be interesting to take a cable car up to where the great wall walk actually begins... not a good idea. Particularly when I noticed that the only thing holding us to the cable was a tiny hook at the top and there's a drop beneath us into the mountains! Scott didn't help the matter by telling me that he's thinking about the mechanics of the cable car and he's trying to distract himself by taking photos. I don't think it'll be on my list of activities for next time...
We made it to the top alive, and began the 4 hour trek ahead. And can I tell you, some of the parts of the wall are steep! Scott seemed to do it without a problem, but it was so steep that I needed to stop several times because I thought I was going to be sick. But we had some local farmers kindly offering their assistance during the entire walk, with them hoping that we will buy one of their tacky overpriced souvenirs at the end. I had two nice gentleman offering me assistance throughout the entire walk, and I felt compelled to give them both something, so I bought a fan off one, and gave the rest of my money that was in my pocket to the other one (20 yuan - $3!), not much for us, but heaps for them. The local farmers take turns in accompanying tourists on the wall, in the hope of making a bit of extra money for their families. What is $3 to us really? And, they were very good to us, and the gentleman who was with us in the last part of the walk even got stung by a bee protecting Skye!
We had 30 towers to pass through on our climb, and we stopped for lunch half way. After that, the walk seemed to get easier and after going down about 100 steps and crossing a swaying bridge, one final flight of very steep steps met us right at the very end. After the walk and a cold drink, we had two options: take a flying-fox over the river (about 200m) to get to our guesthouse, or walk another 25 minutes to the guesthouse. After some persuading (and the fear of losing face!), I took the flying-fox. I was petrified at first, but by the end of the 40 second ride I was enjoying the stunning views of the mountains and river.
Our guesthouse in Simatai was pretty ordinary compared to Beijing. The bed was a slab (I mean literally, the mattress was only about 3mm thick!), which is not what you want when you get back from a 10km hike! The bathroom smelt like urine and was pretty gross, but luckily only one night here. We had a lovely dinner out on the balcony with the view of the great wall behind us. Again, another surreal moment- we'd just finished walking the Great Wall of China! After dinner, we enjoyed a few drinks with our tour mates before heading to our rock-bed early, in the hope of getting up early (4am) to hike more of the wall to see the sunrise! xo