Trekking China’s Great Wall

By Alex Palmer 26 February 2013
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Jinshanling is a great base for exploring China’s Great Wall.

“LIKE AN ORB!” our guide, David, translated, as he formed a perfect imaginary sphere with his hands. We moulded, at best, a warped football.

If you ever wanted to define “tourist”, start with a pair of over-confident Aussie tai chi students in the forecourt of Beijing’s Temple of Heaven, pulling off the white-crane movement with all the grace of a roughed up seagull. Our Yin was off, our Yang was a mess, but somehow, amid the aloof hands, intense concentration and botched attempts at mimicking the elegance of our tai chi masters, the exercise was meditative, the perfect precursor to the hiking ahead. What awaited us was a two-day stint exploring the Jinshanling and Gubeikou sections of the Great Wall with our China Highlights guides.

China is a site of magnificent paradox. Yin and Yang permeate every facet of the country. Ultra-modern Beijing skyscrapers, train lines and busy highways are balanced by glassy lakes, abandoned grottoes and untouched mountain ranges that beg for exploration. But the ultimate fusion of man-made and natural wonder is the Great Wall, a 6000km defensive barrier of vast stones that streams through the northern Chinese mountains and placid, green valleys.

Before you baulk at the thought of visiting one of the world’s most popular tourist hotspots, remember its length. Other than the popular Badaling and Mutianyu sections closest to Beijing, the Wall is mostly deserted. Jinshanling, two and a half hours from Beijing, offers seclusion in a densely populated country.

China Highlights offers 1- to 5-day guided tours of the Great Wall. For more information, click here.

For the full story, grab the March – April 2013 issue of Australian Geographic Adventure.