On a bright sunny Sunday, my friends and I ventured to the Great Wall and back. After some research online, my friend found an interesting day trip: hiking on the Great Wall, a local farmer’s lunch and horseback riding.
We confirmed via e-mail on Friday and met up on Sunday at 8.45am. We took a public bus to another city, arriving at 10.30am. Next, we piled into a van, and thirty minutes later arrived at the wall. Along with our English-speaking guide George (who met us at 8.45am), we were a group of 11. A sign at the beginning of the trail up to the wall states that this section of the wall is not open to the public. As we hiked up to the wall, we were delayed by a worker at the site, who didn’t want us on the wall, because of construction. In the end, he let us pass with a warning to be careful. The water pipe that ran along the top of the rubble was indeed an added bonus.
While I had been to the Great Wall many times, I opted for this trip because I wanted to see a wild un-restored part of the wall – something that is getting harder to come by. The pace and distance of the hike were entirely up to us; fast hikers can forge ahead and anyone that needs a break can rest. The trail itself was quite rugged, but the 8-year-old girl in our group was able to handle the rocky terrain, with the help of her father every now and again. I wouldn’t recommend the hike for a child younger than 8 though – and if they are 10 and under, they should be quite adventurous. It was extraordinarily hot that day and we were all sweating through our shirts. It was easy to drink the two bottles of water I carried up with me. Despite the heat, half of our group reached the top after an hour and a half; others waited at the watchtower below. Walking back down the wall took about an hour.
Next, we hit the van again, which was waiting for us at the bottom of the mountain. After a 30-minute drive, we arrived at a quaint little courtyard restaurant, where we were greeted with deliciously cool watermelon and much needed water. Dishes served were basic, but surprisingly packed a lot of flavor. The cooks seem happy to feed us and at one point the guide had to tell them we had enough on the table. Stand-out dishes were this green vegetable I’ve never seen before and the chuan’r-flavored fish.
We stocked up on bottled water at the restaurant before the next part of the adventure: horseback riding. We were all given horses and a guide. Experienced riders are given the chance to trot and canter on straight, flat roads. Beginners can hold on a handle, affixed to the saddle, while the guide leads your horse. The horse ride travels up a hill to another watchtower, where the guides tell you to get off and take a look around. At the top, you can get a clear view of the Longqing Gorge – with water spilling out from the dam and paddleboats.
After the lookout point, we continued on our horse ride. Then we walked to the bus stop, taking the last bus back to Beijing at 5pm. Tired, sweaty and sunburnt (and did I mention tired?), we pushed our way onto the public bus, rushing to get a seat. The bus ride home was probably the worst part of the trip – as the air conditioning was too cold and blasting onto our sweaty bodies, a bad combo.
The bus reached its (and ours) final destination at 7pm. I was definitely exhausted by the end of the day, but it felt refreshing to get some fresh air and as they say, “You are not a hero until you climb the Great Wall.”
RMB 400 for the day. Price includes transportation, lunch, horseback riding and a guide. Discounts offered for groups of seven or more. For more information, contact George Xu at firstname.lastname@example.org.