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A 5 hour trek from the unrestored ‘wild wall’ (Jiankou) through to the restored wall (Mutianyu) near Beijing. 

A trek on the great Wall of China was top of my bucket list for many years and finally I got to live the dream. We had ended our Trans Siberian Train trip at Beijing so this was my chance. Marcia, my friend and travel companion also always wanted to walk on the great wall – so it was a win-win situation.

We booked the trip from New Zealand with ‘Great Wall Hiking’ ( and chose the trek from Jiankou to Mutianyu so we could walk on both the old wall and the restored wall. We booked a private tour simply because we were both aged 67 and did not want to hold younger fitter people up. The company wrote back and asked if we would mind if a few others came on our trip which would make it cheaper for us – we did not mind as long as they were happy with our pace!!

The day dawned bright and beautiful. We were picked up from our hotel in Beijing at 0800 by Tao who was to be our guide for the day. We met our three fellow trekkers – one Australian, and two Canadians (one originally from Asia) and set off in our mini bus for a two hour ride to the village of Xizhazi where our adventure would begin.

On route Tao told us that the first part of the trek was a steep climb to reach the wall and would take about one hour. So we were prepared!

The little watchtower on top - that is where we are going!
The little watchtower on top – that is where we climbed up to!

We were so very lucky with the weather because Beijing had been shrouded in cloud and pollution the two previous days but the sky was a clear blue today!

The first hour was indeed very steep but Tao stopped several times to ensure we were comfortable with the pace and I suspect the other members of the group were pretty happy to rest a while!

When we arrived at Jiankou watchtower we then had to climb some steps to get up onto the wall but what a view when we got there! It was like nothing I had imagined – a full panoramic view of the wall ahead and behind. Tao pointed out the direction we would be heading in – east to Mutianyu. He told us that west headed toward the Gobi desert.  Our cameras were clicking for several minutes while Tao handed out water and snacks which we felt we deserved after our climb.

The wall was crumbly and broken in several places with only a narrow single lane path in some areas.  This was the very reason we had chosen this trek because we wanted to walk on the ‘wild wall’ and experience what it must have been like centuries ago. Tao kept a close eye on us as we climbed over stones and crossed narrow paths. He was also camera happy – like the rest of us so I felt I could give a little time to commit these amazing views to a camera so we can relive this adventure over and over.

The Jiankou Watchtower - on the wall at last
The Jiankou Watchtower – on the wall at last

Every where one looked the views were to die for, it was hard to take it all in but I had the need to drink it all in and stamp it in my mind forever. There were only a very few people walking on the old wall when we were there so we more or less had it all to enjoy to ourselves. All the people in our group were keen photographers and so nobody was in a hurry to move on and Tao was happy to go at our pace.

After about 2 hours walking Tao gave us all a choice of ‘shortcut’ versus steep climb up and down.  We all chose the shortcut and were pleased we did when we saw the decent as we finished our short cut!

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Below are views from along the wall

When we finally arrived at the restored wall there were several trees and people there selling red ribbons to tie on the tree as you pass through from the old wall to the restored wall. Tao told us several people lived very close to this area in a local village and one old guy walked up each day and sat on the steps for a few hours!

Walking on the restored wall was so much easier but there were some very steep steps and there were many more people around. Two big American men came running up the steep steps ahead of the rest of their team and they had American basketball tee-shirts on them. The Australian in our group recognized them and had a photo taken with them to show his son.

We had completed the 9.5kms by 3pm and headed down by cable car to our waiting car and on to a scrumptious Chinese lunch of beef, pork & chicken dishes with lots of vegetables and rice. We polished the plates off in next to no time not realizing what an appetite the Great Wall had given us.

I would do it all over again & again…….. and with the same company. They were so efficient and were great communicators from the word go. Tao was a wonderful, happy, caring and very considerate guide.








Lucy Casey

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