Finally there was the big day of the wall!
There are several sections of the wall that can be visited, some more touristy, some less; some restored, some “wild” i.e. not easy to walk on. We decided to follow the Lonely Planet to do a Hike from Jiankou to Mutianyu which is along the “wild wall” and officially forbidden to use – but the entrance fee is 20 Yuan.
We (the Spanish guys and I) left around 9am to go to the bus station which is 5min from our place and after some confusion about where to take which bus we ended up in the correct one. Around an hour later, “entertained” by a Chinese girl that didn’t stop talking,we reached the first stop on our journey. A small village from where we were supposed to get a taxi to the next stop. Even before our intended stop people entered the bus, trying to persuade tourists to get out and use their services to go to the wall. At our stop we were about to leave the bus when to other German guys asked us a bit confused if that’s the correct stop and how we would know that; we referred with a quick gesture to the list of bus stops (in Chinese) and told them that it’s written there. Anyway I asked them if they go to Jiankou and if they follow the Lonely Planet guide, when they confirmed it, I just told them that this is the right stop and to get off. By now Marc, one of the Spaniards was already busy trying to understand one of the drivers who asked for 200 Yuan to take us to the next stop. As the Lonely Planet said it would cost 100-130 Yuan, we were able to agree on 150 Yuan pretty quickly and left more or less instantly after we got out of the bus. The two German guys were left behind, we didn’t have space for them and somehow everything went pretty quick so that we more or less forgot about them.
On the drive we talked a bit with the driver which worked surprisingly well although none of us three really spoke Chinese but together we were able to understand most of it and to answer to most of his questions and comments.
40 min later we arrived at the small village of Xizhazi Cun. We paid our 20 Yuan each and start hiking up a dirt track through a pine forest towards the wall. When we reached it we had a spectacular view over the surrounding countryside and long stretch of the wall towards each side. And the best: we were the only ones there. Nobody else could be seen on either side. We had a quick break from the steep ascend and started walking along the wall. There were bushes and trees growing all over it, so we had to find our way along it; climb and jump over gaps and ascend even more as it follows the mountain. Every few hundred meters there were watchtowers which could be climbed and invited for a break. We made our way like that, meeting only one guy from Kazakhstan until we found a bigger watchtower where we had a beer-break.
From here we could see more tourists approaching and it was clear that we are near the end of the “wild wall”. Shortly after we reached the renovated part of the wall which was not too crowded and looked like it might have looked a few hundred years ago but at the same time it also looked more boring. Every part looked similar and there wasn’t so much change like at the part before. We followed the wall to the exit and walked down a staircase to the bottom of it. When we arrived at the entrance a driver approached us and we recognized him as the driver from the morning. He offered to drive us to the bus stop for 100 Yuan; the Lonely Planet said there were minivans for 15 Yuan each so we offered him 50 Yuan and started walking away when he denied it. After going further and further down while we were ignoring his offers, he finally agreed to the 50 Yuan and dropped us off half an hour later at the bus stop.
Back in Beijing we had a quick meal and bought train tickets for the two Spanish guys before heading home to get some rest after the day.