The Great Wall - narrowly escaping arrest!

Trip Start May 05, 2006
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Trip End May 13, 2006


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Thursday, May 11, 2006

This will make you laugh!

We finally got over our jetlag sufficiently to be able to wake up at the necessary 6.30am in order to get a taxi to take us to the Great Wall for the day. I'd wanted to visit for as long as I can remember, so I was really excited. The Lonely Planet suggests a section of the wall that you can walk - from Jinshanling to Simatai. I hoped this would get us away from all the other "turn up, take a photo and leave" tourists, and so persuaded Nick to do this. Plus, it was a nice day, and it would be good to get some exercise.

We got to Jinshanling, made arrangements with the taxi driver for our pick up in Simatai, and headed off towards the wall. Within seconds we were surrounded by the usual group of hawkers, trying to sell us everything from water to hardback books (like I'm going to walk for 4 hours carrying a bloomin' coffee table book??). We shook most of them off, but one of them was really persistant. Despite the fact that we told him we didn't want anything, he kept walking a few paces behind us. I was worried that we'd get to Simatai, with him having followed us, and he'd expect paying for his trouble. So we made it very clear that we weren't going to be doing anything of the sort and we didn't need his help. Eventually he headed off.

Having survived the first wave, we braced ourselves for more when we climbed to the top of the hill and got onto the Wall properly. So, we moved away as quickly as possible in the direction we thought was right for Simatai. Note my use of the word thought! We stopped to take some pictures, and almost straight away met a group of Brits doing a sponsored walk for the RNIB - which gave us confidence we were heading in the right direction - after all, they had to be coming from somewhere, right?

After about 30 minutes of walking (with no-one else around us - but I thought that was just because we were being SO original by walking this section) we came to a sign which warned about a military zone ahead. But obviously we ignored that and kept going - after all, we were sure we were going the right way...

The path started to get harder to follow, and we had to leave the wall at one point to walk around the base (but this was fine - the guidebooks all said that there are some parts where you have to walk around...) Although maybe the barbed wire should have been a bit of a clue ;-)

Anyway, to cut a long story short, after about 1.5 hours, the path we were following disappeared, and it became quite obvious that we'd gone the wrong way!! Oops! Feeling pretty sheepish, we headed back, and had to walk back down into Jinshanling to find someone who would take us to Simatai to pick up a taxi. A local woman was practically rubbing her hands with glee as she called her son to pick us up in his clapped out van and drive us over there...

After a while we were able to laugh about it - the fact that we'd ignored all those military zone signs, the fact that China probably isn't the best place to be wandering around in a forbidden zone, and my brilliant idea of getting the zoom lens out for the camera to see if we could see any other walkers further along the wall (no honestly officer, I wasn't taking photographs of secure locations...eek!).

The bonus was, we really did have the place to ourselves to enjoy the spectacular scenery and admire the incredible feat of building to have created the wall. Deciding to walk it just a couple of days before our 10 hour flight home wasn't totally ideal though - very sore and stiff muscles!!!
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