||VAWN HIMMELSBACH, Chic Savvy Travels
If you’re traveling to northern China, you probably want to check out the Great Wall — you, along with hordes of other tourists. From Beijing most tourists head to Badaling, the most accessible (and crowded) section of the wall, which has also been extensively renovated. If you’re looking for authentic charm, this isn’t it.
But if you plan to trek the Great Wall, you may get to experience it in relative isolation, particularly during the off-season. From Beijing, you can organize a day trip (or overnight camping trip) to trek along a 12-kilometre section of the wall from Jinshanling to Simatai. To get there, it’s a 110-kilometre drive out of Beijing (this took me about three hours, since traffic in Beijing is insane).
The Great Wall of China. Photo by Vawn Himmelsbach
This section of wall is 500 years old and has retained many of its original features, including 135 watchtowers — some constructed on precipices.
It’s stunning, but watch out for loose rocks and be prepared for steep sections. It’s a good idea to wear proper hiking boots as opposed to running shoes; also, bring along plenty of water and snacks. There’s no shade, and nowhere to buy anything along the way (except for hawkers who will follow you for the first couple of kilometres…).
Most hostels, guesthouses and hotels have local tour operators that offer day trips via mini-bus to this section of the Great Wall. I paid about US$20 to tag along with a group in a mini-bus, but that price can vary depending on which operator you book with, how many people are in the group and, to some degree, how strong your bargaining skills are.
If you have more money to spare, you can hire a taxi or private driver to take you to Jinshanling; if you’re on a shoestring budget, take local transit to the town of Gubeikou and from there catch a taxi to Jinshanling.
The spring and fall are perhaps the best times for trekking — it’s temperate, and also less busy. The summer months can be brutally hot (and much busier), and in winter you’ll have to contend with ice and snow. However, I did trek another section of the Great Wall in the winter, and though it was icy, there wasn’t another person in sight — a rarity in this country of 1.3 billion people. So don’t let the weather deter you — just make sure you’re dressed properly.
At Jinshanling, however, you will have to deal with hawkers, and they’re incredibly persistent. You can either buy a few postcards or trinkets before you head out on your trek, or you’ll be followed along the wall for up to 5 kilometres before they finally turn back. If you can speak a few words in Mandarin, they may be more likely to leave you alone.
Aside from day trips, you can organize overnight stays that involve camping on the Great Wall, as well as longer hikes from two days to even a week along “wild” sections of the wall, such as Huanghuacheng and Jiankou. And if you’re traveling further northwest into the interior of China, there are plenty of opportunities to see abandoned stretches of the Great Wall.
It’s one wonder of the world you won’t want to miss.
Copyright @ 2012 Chic Savvy Travels
Date Added: July 6, 2012 | Comments (0)
Photo Copyright @ 2012 VH Media
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