September 2018: The Great Wall of China, a series of towering stone walls and fortifications built by the Chinese Empire for protection against the northern barbarian hordes between the7th Century BC to the 1600s and draped over mountains, and deserts for thousands of miles until meeting the ocean, is simply one of the world’s most amazing places of antiquity to explore on the planet. This is especially true since the majority of the Great Wall exists in remote terrain where few have access. The majority of visitors only visit a select few sections of restored wall while the remaining unrestored sections of wall sit abandoned withered away by centuries of neglect and weathering. I had visited 2 sections of restored wall, but it was the unrestored sections are the most telling of the wall’s history and are the parts I really wanted to see.  If I had time, I would spend weeks trekking the wall but on a two-day layover in Beijing enroute to Kamchatka, Russia with a few friends, I only had one day so I found a section of spectacular unrestored Great Wall and organized a driver/guide to take us hiking there.

 

My first trip to the Great Wall was in 1995 to the touristy section of Badaling when I was 18. The experience of visiting the wall was a dream come true.

 

Touristy Section of Wall-Badaling in 1995

My friend Bob and I –Touristy Section of Wall-Badaling in 1995

In 2005, on another short layover in Bejing enroute to North Korea I visited the Great Wall but this time to another touristy section called Simatai with a few friends via a taxi. We arrived as the wall was closing and we had it all to ourselves-see Visiting North Korea As One Of The First American Tourists Since The Korean War | Venture The Planet

 

Simatai

Jiankou Unrestored Section of Wall

To organize the trip, I found a local fixer who organized a vehicle, driver and guide to take us to the village where the trail head was located in Xizhazi village, a small mountain village. A large sign at the trail head indicated the section of the wall was closed and it is unlawful to enter but we learned that this was not enforced providing a small fee is paid to the village. Our guide picked up a backpack of Tsingtao beer for the long steep hike to the wall instead of water, which I thought was peculiar. From the village we hiked straight up a tough difficult trail and to make things more difficult we had just arrived off of a long flight from Tijuana earlier in the morning and we were extremely tired.

Jiankou Unrestored Section of Wall

Jiankou Unrestored Section of Wall

Me at Jiankou Unrestored Section of Wall

Wes climbing into a tower

Jiankou Unrestored Section of Wall

Me posing with a Chinese lady as the request of her boyfriend for a photo with her

From Beijing, we flew to Kamchatka River Rafting Among Grizzly Bears, Chasing Killer Whales and Volcano Hopping in a Soviet Era Military Helicopter   | Venture The Planet to spend a week before returning to Beijing on another short layover on our way to the USA.

 

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