Great Wall

Trip Start Sep 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Saturday, October 8, 2005

During the night I managed to get very little sleep. A Chinese guy had moved into our room and kept getting up and down all night, making as much noise as possible at the same time. He amazingly checked out at 4am, throwing his bags around as he left waking everyone up, having only checked in 5 hours earlier!

It also sounded like it was pouring down outside so I was incredibly relieved when my alarm went off at 6am and saw a crystal clear, crisp morning with none of the fog from the previous days. It had been a plastic sheet blowing around all night, not rain after all.

There needs to be a good reason for me to get up at such a ridiculous time and that is the Great Wall. We were doing a 10km hike from Jinshaling to Simatai and had to meet at 7am to get the bus. We got chatting to someone last night whilst watching the dog massacre who was also doing the walk today, but his bus left at 6:30 so we went along early just in case. His tour bus left and we weren't part of it so headed back to the courtyard to wait for ours. At 7:15 we were on the bus, with free brekkie, heading off on what I assumed would be a short journey.

4 hours later we arrived at Jinshaling! We hadn't even left Beijing city within the first hour as we had to pick up loads of people all over town. It wasn't really a tour, thank God, and once on the wall we were on our own. Finding the wall was pretty difficult as we were dropped in the middle of nowhere and had to guess if we were going the right way.

The walk was pretty spectacular. The views of mountains for miles around were amazing and I doubt any photos will do it justice. At every turret along the way there were locals trying to sell you water, Coke, postcards and even beer! Yes you can even get beer on the Great Wall! The water was no doubt straight from the tap so I was glad I grabbed a few bottles as it was pretty warm under the constant glare from the sun.

The 10km's seemed a lot less than I had imagined, probably as we have been doing so much walking everyday. Some stretches of the wall were very steep and I was amazed at the number of older people doing the walk. There were loads of people doing the walk for Cancer Research and some were easily over 60. If I struggled then it must have been really difficult for them. It also made me feel a little guilty about not putting on sun cream before I left as it was really hot....

The Chinese know how to make a few pennies but this was a stroke of genius. On arriving at Simatai you have to pay another 30 yuan to continue! It is about 7km's back to Jinshaling so no one is going to say no!

Simatai is in a pretty bad state and at a number of places you have to get off the wall and walk on the grass. Near the town you have the option of using a really tacky zip slide (another bit of Chinese money making genius) or walk. We chose to walk but everyone else seemed really excited about the zip slide. Perhaps it was just to save their legs after the walk?

At the bottom we had to wait around for about 45 minutes before our bus was due to leave so to pass the time I murdered a beer. I was a bit hesitant though as the only beer they had was Yanjing and I had a bad experience with it before. On a booze cruise to France I had picked up 3 crates of the stuff and it was the worst beer I had ever tasted. Thankfully it was perfectly fine and I decided it mustn't travel well like Guiness.

At 3:30 everyone was back on the bus knackered and ready to shoot off back to Beijing, but the driver was nowhere to be seen. He finally turned up an hour later and proceeded to drive like a demon the entire way back. This was a full on roller coaster ride complete with loads of horn beeping as an indicator and overtaking on blind corners.

The trip back was done an hour quicker so it was alright in the end. Feeling knackered we decided to tuck into some Chinese food from the hostel restaurant. Probably the worst Chinese food I have ever had. Sweet and sour pork was battered pork in ketchup! Had one last beer before hitting the sack early.
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