The mission: Get To The Great Wall
POSTED BY Thamar IN Adventures, China @ February 19, 2012 - 7:47 am

by Richard

After our epic and rather arduous cycle adventure (only about 60km) we had a short 20km cycle from Hairou to Miyun yesterday and arrived around lunch time. We battled to find the place we had earmarked earlier - something that's happening more and more - and so we opted for the Home Inn along the main road which is a kind of chain budget hotel here in China. It was a nice place but the room was very smokey – people smoke everywhere here, it’s like SA in the 80’s! We mentioned to the hotel staff that we wanted to go to The Great Wall at Simatai and they said it was closed and that we should just catch a bus from Beijing to Badaling which is the most popular section of the wall and which we didn't want to do.

Finding The Great Wall

We started out early this morning after breakfast at the hotel which was rather unappetising (they eat strange savoury foods in the morning including spicy meat dishes) and made our way to the main road to find a lift to Jinshaling - a section of the Great Wall. The hotel staff had looked at us as if we were mad to want to go all the way to Jinshaling yesterday but we were determined to make the last two days worthwhile and head to a remote part of the wall.

After a bit of negotiation we got a ride in a mini bus (a little minibus that's about as narrow as half a car) which cost us about R320, which by Chinese standards was pretty pricey. In fact the journey from Miyun to Jinshaling was about an hour away (70km). As we left we quickly headed into the hills which we could see earlier from our hotel.

It was a very quiet entrance into the Jinshaling Park. I'm sure due to the cold weather (-5) and because it was the 'slack season'. It was a brief walk up the path before we got onto the wall through the Zhuanduo Pass, constructed round 1364 and apparently well-guarded back then. As we clambered up the stairs to get onto the wall it's snaking profile became visible.

There was a watch tower where we entered onto the wall. These towers are dotted every 100m or so. It’s amazing to see the path the wall follows along the steep ridges of the terrain. We felt so high up after being in a very flat Beijing for a few days. After a short walk around to different vantage points we made our way down to the main entrance where our taxi waited. We spent just over an hour on the wall, which really wasn't long enough.

When we returned we wandered the streets in search of lunch. We managed to find a street side bike mechanic where we put some 'chi' into our tires. Strange that they don't have compressed air at petrol stations. In the afternoon we went down to the river... frozen river... which was lined on both sides by a park with walkways and freestanding exercise equipment. Also loads of ping-pong tables. I had a quick game with one of the old men there - he was very good.