It was only a few months ago that I was standing on The Great Wall of China, looking out at the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen, and already it feels like it never happened. Hiking The Great Wall of China is something I have wanted to do since I can remember, but in a ‘that’ll never happen‘ kind of way. In what world was I ever going to find myself in China, let alone at one of the wonders of the world?
After a couple of well needed days to get settled into navigating Beijing, especially after my not so successful arrival, we headed off to meet Beijing Hikers – the tour company we chose to go with. The Middle Route of Switchback Great Wall is an easier version of one of their hikes. Still quite difficult due to some very steep sections but not long enough for them to class as difficult. For price of 420¥ (£48) we were provided with transport from Beijing, bottled water, snacks, hiking gear as well as the beautiful meal that was waiting for us at the end of our trek.
- Distance: 7.5km
- Time to complete: 3–4 hours
- Total ascent: 414m
- Total descent: 420m
- Start height: 682m
- Peak: 1,036m
- Finish height: 686m
- Location: Yanqing
- Drive time: 2 hours each way
In keeping with my apparent trend of messing up everything, the beginning of our day did not go smoothly. We left our couchsurfers flat in plenty of time and headed straight to the meeting point (ish). We arrived about an hour early so headed to Starbucks for a pick me up and a snack. As we went out to wait we realised the street was pretty much empty and it was very likely we were in the wrong place. A very nice lady directed us to the correct road, parallel to where we were, and we found a long strip of about 30 coaches. Now just to find the right one (spoiler: we didn’t)
We eventually got in touch with the tour company only to be told they had already left, but there was a second meeting place and that they would wait for us if we could get there in time. So we jumped a taxi over to the Lido Hotel and in the end were – technically– only 5 minutes late.
Okay, I’m not as fit as I thought
The guides staggered themselves throughout the group. One at the front middle and back, marking the trail with little red flags to avoid anyone getting lost. The beginning of the trail was a slow climb through a winding valley before we reached The Great Wall. Eager Chiera was right up front marching away untill about 5 minutes in and I could no longer breathe. I eventually had to stop and let people pass!
I could hear people around me chatting and socialising but I was just focused on not keeling over. Once we made it to the wall we all stopped for a short break. This allowed me to regain my composure and finally introduce myself!
Perfect Time to Discover your Fear of Heights
This stretch of Great Wall in Yanqing County is extremely picturesque and seldom visited. We didn’t pass anyone else on the trail that wasn’t from our group! We made it to the highest point of the hike, The Generals Tower, about an hour and a half in. It was here, believe it or not, that I discovered I have a pretty severe fear of heights. If you climb up to the top of the tower you can see stunning 360° views of the amazing Yanquing County landscape. Of course, I climbed up and couldn’t seem to get back down. Every time someone walked past me to see the view I wanted to scream at them for ALMOST PUSHING ME OVER THE EDGE but had to refrain.
After the General’s Tower, the hike got much easier. It was mostly downhill after that, though still very steep. Given the fact that the stairs were over 500 years old, the footing was a tad precarious. I clung to that wall for dear life!
As I started to relax I was able to chat to the other travellers more and met some really nice people, two of which were young solo female travellers – my gals – and really started to appreciate where I was. I was hiking The Great Wall of China!! This is not something that I ever thought I was going to experience and I’m here worried about slipping on a rock?
An Experience I’ll Never Forget
We stopped for another break just before we left The Great Wall to make our way back down the valley. It was a nice moment to just take in what I had just done. To look out at the green, jagged landscape and think “Fuck! I’m in China!”
As I didn’t read the website properly before booking, the meal at the end was a lovely surprise. Bearing in mind this was only my 2nd day in China. Being sat down in front of a spinning table full of food I couldn’t identify, armed only with a pair of chopsticks, was daunting to say the least. But there was also beer, and good people, and the food was actually amazing. And I hardly dropped anything!
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