24 September 2009

The Really Freaking Great Wall

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Last time I scaled The Real Freaking Great Wall was three years ago with my Aunt Robin. It was mid-February, which meant no tourists due to the usually cold weather. Thanks to a fluke heat wave we had temperatures in the mid 60s and I scaled the Mutiyanu region of the wall in jeans and a T-shirt sans crowds of Chinese pilgrims enjoying the circus environment of ski lifts and toboggan runs that carried you to and from The Wall.

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This time around, it was going to be sunny, hot and possibly more hectic. Wanting to step even further off the beaten path, I convinced my travel companions to opt for the “adventure hike” from Jinshaling area to Simatai area. At just over 6 miles it seemed like a reasonable day-long adventure. Thanks to insane traffic in Beijing, our 70-mile bus journey ended at our starting point just before 10:30am after four hours in a bus full of foreign tourists and our “English Guide” (who did very little guiding). We hopped off post-naps, post-iPod sessions and post-sunscreen spreading prepped for the big hike ahead.

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We clipped on our matching “Happy Travel” group tour name tags (sweet) and hopped the cable car to the top. Having been before I thought this time around would be more of a “yeah, isn’t it awesome? indeed” type of experience. Turns out the darn thing is completely and utterly breathtaking every time you go, leading to more of a “WOW, I MEAN, HOW INCREDIBlE IS THIS? I KNOW! TOTALLY AMAZING” reaction.

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I could go on and on but suffice to say, it was incredible. Unlike Mutiyanu or Badaling (the Chinese equivalent of Disneyland) this section of The Wall is both partially restored and partially in ruins, giving some incredible perspective to both the scale and intensity of the structure itself. At points we were crawling on our hands and knees down perilous slopes, wondering how they built the darn thing in the first place. By mile six our legs were shaking from the near constant up and down, around and about, inside and outside hike, making the zip line run back to the ground a fantastic (albeit kitsch) end to an incredible day. Of everything I’ve seen in these wild 25 years, this is no doubt THE highlight. Visit The Really Freaking Great Wall if it’s the only thing you do.

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Kyle Taylor

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