Camping on the Great Wall Posted by sasha on Apr 16, 2011 in Culture
With the arrival of spring, Beijingers can finally come out of hibernation and enjoy the great outdoors. The long, cold, dry winter is finally gone, and there are just a few short weeks of moderate weather before the intense heat of summer hits. This short window of opportunity between freezing and sweating needs to be taken advantage of, and one excellent way to do this is to head out to the most famous wall in all of the world for a camping trip (露营 – lù yíng). In May 2009, I did just that, as my friend and I packed up our sleeping bags, some snacks, and a bottle of wine, and headed out to the Jinshanling Great Wall (金山岭长城 – Jīn shān lǐng cháng chéng). This is one of the few sections where camping is allowed, and it’s a beautiful place to spend a nice spring evening. With far fewer tourists than other, more restored sections of the Wall, Jinshanling is an ideal location for a peaceful excursion outside of the big city.
Arriving at the Wall around 5 p.m., we hiked up just in time to relax and watch the sunset on the Chinese countryside
and the iconic landmark. Equipped with a bottle of Great Wall red wine (红葡萄酒 – hóng pú táo jiǔ), we had a perfect photo op. When the sun went down, there wasn’t much to do, as we had neglected to bring a light of any sort. Being adventurous guys, we also made the trip without a tent. We plopped our sleeping bags (睡袋 – shuì dài) down on the ground, munched on some snacks, and admired the starry sky. Within the city, one almost forgets that stars actually exist, as the bright lights of Beijing drown them out every night. And so we slept under the glow of the stars, inside one of the guard towers of the Great Wall of China.
Waking up early with the sun, we started hiking right away. Perhaps the best thing about camping out on the Wall is that you can begin your hike early enough to avoid the local touts for a few hours. As the Wall technically isn’t open for tourists until 8 a.m. or so, it’s possible to capture images of the Great Wall sans people. Just compare one of my photos from camping on the Jinshanling Wall to one of the Badaling Wall during normal business hours. Which section would you rather visit?
We hiked along the Wall for a few hours, eventually arriving at the Simatai (司马台) section of the Wall. For those hoping to
replicate our excursion, it should be noted that this particular section is currently undergoing repairs and will be inaccessible for a few years. Having slept on cold bricks the night before and hiked for a solid five hours along the mostly unrestored Great Wall, we opted for the easy way down – a zipline. Reinvigorated be a weekend of fresh air, picture perfect scenery, and exercise, it was back to the grind of big city life.
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