Yeah, you know it – we love hiking! Wherever we are we try to get some miles in. However, to hike in China is quite a challenge. Even though China boast spectacular landscapes such as impressive mountains, deep gorges, vast deserts, green hills and deep forests, hiking is not (yet) the thing to do. My personal impression is that the Great Outdoors in general and hiking specifically are something people are interested in when getting tired and fed up with their urban life. Chinese generally still prefer glittering shopping malls to rocky trails in steep terrain. It is not that long ago that the Chinese society was an agricultural one – for big parts still is. Why go hiking after you took care of your rice paddy? But people go out and enjoy nature – just in a different way you’d expect: pilgrimage to sacred mountains in China has a long tradition. Nine mountains throughout the country are associated with the supreme God of Heaven and the five main cosmic deities of Chinese traditional religion. These mountains can get incredibly crowded – especially on national holidays several tens of thousand people climb up uncountable steps, follow narrow concrete paths and balance on narrow wooden blanks to get to the peak. You won’t see neither proper outdoor clothing nor proper hiking boots. It is just not the thing you wear, because, remember, that is not hiking.
The Great Wall is not a sacred mountain, but it is one of the worlds major sights. So definitely a Must-See when in China. John and I wanted to explore parts of the Wall that haven’t been restored yet and we wanted to hike the wall. So we joined a private hiking group that organised a trip to a rather remote part. We got to (not so much officially) scramble up and hike for over 10 kms on old parts of the wall. The whole construction is pretty impressive and follows the rugged crest of the range like the tail of a dragon. Very steep up and very steep down. Unfortunately we had a pretty bad air day and also an icy wind was blowing in. So we were embracing the climbs as they kept us warm, but couldn’t do much about the ever lasting Beijing smog. However, it has been a great experience to hike on that massive former barrier, that was supposed to keep the Mongolians out. But it weirdly didn’t feel authentic: power lines, settlements, concrete roads in the mountains, highways, ghost towns (speculation objects of whomever), huge hotels to accommodate tourists in the close vicinity.