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China Daily Website


Hiking the Great Wall

Updated: 2009-10-13 17:23
By Casey Chin (chinadaily.com.cn)

Beijing is a huge metropolis that is stunning not only for its rich history and culture, but also for its sheer size. The city pulses with life as 17 million people, 10 million bicycles and over 3.5 million cars flow through the streets and alleys at all hours of the day and night.

For those that want to explore beyond the city’s 5th ring road, China’s natural beauty is just a short bus ride away.

So join me and the Beijing Hikers, a local group that organizes guided hikes around the area, as we tackle the Longquanyu Great Wall. Unlike Badaling this 11 km path will take you away from the crowds to un-restored sections of the wall and even to some secluded valleys beyond.

After two hours on the bus I was ready to hit the trail. The going was gentle at first, and I was even able to find some fresh fruit on the way, but it wasn’t long before I found that the trail hits back.

“I’ve just reunited with the group and we’ve managed at a pretty good clip, but it looks like we have our first sighting up there of possibly part of the great wall. It’s still a little way, so let’s go check it out.”

“Now I know you can’t tell right now, but Beijing is off that way. We’re only two hours away, but it feels like we’re in a whole different world here.”

The Great Wall, one of China’s national icons, stretches over 8,000 kilometers. Much of it, like the section we crossed, is un-restored and offers hikers a challenging, yet less crowded experience.

Back when the wall was still used, defenders would be stationed at these watchtowers, but, unlike the guards of ancient China, it’s here that we abandoned the Great Wall and made our way down into the first valley.

“So, we’re about halfway through, we’re going to make our way down there, cross the river and continue on our way.”

“The most treacherous parts can be the steep descents. You have to be really careful when it gets wet and muddy.”

“We’ve finally made it, we’re at the bottom of the creek and we’re making our way through the first valley.”

Down here I felt a sense of peace that can be hard to find in the city. After a quick lunch break we trekked further into the valley. Soon we were surrounded by water carved canyon faces and enveloped in the tranquil sound of the rushing creek.

It wasn’t long before the natural beauty of China, both big and small, came alive.

Crossing the streets in Beijing may be hair raising enough for me, but this trail offers plenty of its own thrills, like this wooden bridge made of branches tied together with wire.

“It looks like we’ll have a short cruise ahead and a welcome break for our legs.”

We were crossing the Heilongtan, or the Black Dragon Pool, which sadly meant that the trip would be coming to an end.

“So it’s the end of my journey and although my legs are burning and my feet are sore, it’s nice to know that it’s so easy to escape the hustle and bustle of Beijing and lose myself in China’s ancient history and beautiful mountains.”

Hosted and edited by: Casey Chin

Camera work by: Chantal Anderson and Casey Chin

Thanks to the Beijing Hikers