We decided to see a third section of the Great Wall. We did this through a place called Leo’s Hostel that offers something called the Secret Wall Tour. There are a few outfits that do the same sort of tour. They take you to an unrestored area of the wall that is not part of any of the main tourist sections. This part of the wall was 3 hours away from Beijing past the Badaling Great Wall. We certainly got something different than what we signed up for. We were told you had to be fit to do this tour, that was an under statement.
The walking of this part of the wall was supposed to be about 3 hours but ended up being 4 hours and 45 minutes. The owner of the hostel decided to take us on a bit of a different route than normal and ended up getting lost himself. This tour was insane and dangerous. We were climbing up cliff sides and having to make our way down steep areas through trees and rocks. Only 1 1/2 hours of the almost 5 hours of the hiking was near any part of the wall.
Some areas of the wall we were on you could barely recognize as ever being a wall. A lot of it was just piles of dilapidated and shifted masonry blocks, other areas have decades of trees and shrubs growing out of it. A lot of the time we couldn’t walk on the parts of the wall but hiked along the outside edge of it, clinging onto the steep cliff side.
We ventured well away from the wall and down more steep terrain, parts of it got really bad and there were no trees or branches to hang onto. We ended up sliding down on our butts. People were falling and slipping all over the place. We finally came to a flat area and followed a river for a while. Then we had to start crossing the river a few times back and forth to continue onwards. We jumped across slippery rocks. We finally came to a part of the river where there was nowhere to walk along side it anymore. We had to somehow make our way across an area of slippery rock that went at a steep angle into the river. Our shoes had no grip to make our way across, many people were having a difficult time. The hostel owner and a few of his assistants had to get hip deep into the water and help hold many of us on the rock as we tried to make our way across. Then we came to an area of rapid rushing water we had to get through. Jack wanted me to go ahead of him so he could keep a hold of me to stop me from being washed down the river. I tried to reach across to the rocks but was not long enough. The guys ended up having me strung on my backside with Jack holding onto the top half of me and them at the other side of the rocks grabbing onto my feet to pull me across, kind of like a human stretcher. The one guy at my feet was a very old man that weighed half as much as I did. I thought for sure he would end up pulling himself into the water. We had to give him credit though. He had been hiking this section of the wall for many years, and we could barely keep up to him. At 78 years old, this guy was in incredible shape. They were going to start pulling on me too soon before I had my footing, Jack starting yelling at them that I was going to fall into the river and told them to wait. Finally they got me to safety. Jack was able to manage across behind me. What an adrenaline rush. Later we kept slipping so many times on rocks in the river that we just gave up completely and walked in the water to get across.
This was not what we had in mind when looking at the tour. Many others were upset, this was supposed to be a trip to take us to a non tourist part of the wall, not an adventure tour of river crossings and rock climbing. We and many others had brought our expensive cameras with us and were afraid we would fall into the water with them. We renamed this Leo’s Crazy Wall Tour! We are not even sure if they are supposed to be taking people to this part of the wall. I doubt the government would allow tours in such dangerous circumstances. They won’t even let you onto some sections of the touristic parts of the wall because they are unrestored and dangerous.
Leo’s Hostel tends to have a very young crowd that stays there. He said the last group he took on this tour complained it wasn’t adventurous enough, so he decided to step it up a notch. I think he over did it, we heard many complaints about how little time we actually spent on or even near the wall.
The driving to and from this section of the wall took much longer than it needed to. Instead of driving on the main highway we drove on a road that went along side it. The speed on it was half of what you could do on the main highway. We were told that we were taking this road to avoid the heavy traffic on the highway, yet on the way home there were barely any cars on the highway. It was clear to everyone that we were on this road to avoid the tolls that had to be paid if you traveled on the highway.
Needless to say we both had really sore muscles for the next few days. Our arms were worse than our legs since we had to hold onto rocks and trees to climb up or down most of the time. What a crazy adventure. We wouldn’t recommend it, as the price was a lot higher than going to other sections of the wall, we didn’t see anything unique from what we saw at the Simatai Wall area. It ended up being a very long day. We left early in the morning and did not get back into the city of Beijing until 8pm. The main boast of the Hostel is that you will be on the wall without all the crowds. Since there were 45 of us in the group it wasn’t like we were alone. We had more solitude during our time on Simatai.