Wild side of Great Wall draws many tourists

China Daily (USA) - - LIFE TRAVEL - By XULIN xulin@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The Jiankou sec­tion of the GreatWall is un­doubt­edly the most pre­cip­i­tous part of the world won­der in Bei­jing.

While in the past, some peo­ple have died while try­ing to climb the wild parts of the Wall here, places like Badal­ing and Mu­tianyu in the out­skirts of the Chi­nese cap­i­tal are suit­able for all tourists due to the avail­abil­ity of ca­ble cars and the re­built gen­tle slopes.

But lo­cated in Huairou dis­trict of Bei­jing, Jiankou’s scenic views have made it a pop­u­lar spot for pho­tog­ra­phers and hik­ers. One has to use both hands and feet to climb the rough cliffs here.

The 20-kilo­me­ter Jiankou sec­tion of the Wall was built in the Tang (618-907) and Ming (1368-1644) dy­nas­ties.

It takes nearly 150 min­utes to drive to Jiankou from down­town Bei­jing. One should wear moun­taineer­ing shoes, skid-proof gloves and carry suf­fi­cient wa­ter and light food. It is bet­ter to carry an alpen­stock or some sort of walk­ing stick in win­ter.

Xiz­hazi vil­lage, which is at the foot of the Jiankou Great Wall, has farm­houses where tourists can pay and stay. The vil­lage has toi­lets that hik­ers should use be­fore a trek be­cause most of Jiankou is in the wilder­ness.

It is eas­ier to climb the east part of Jiankou than the west. The first bea­con tower leads to a di­lap­i­dated sec­tion, which is al­most ver­ti­cal. One needs to balance one’s body while climb­ing as there are no bars for pro­tec­tion. For the west­ern side, one may need other peo­ple’s help to en­sure a smooth hike on the cliffs.

The best place to watch the sun­set is the Zheng­beilou Tower, where one can en­joy the moun­tain views and the sur­round­ing tranquility. It is bet­ter to go down­hill while the light is still there.

Ac­ci­dents may hap­pen if one is not fa­mil­iar with the land­form, so climb­ing Jiankou with those who have ear­lier been here may help. Fa­mil­iar routes are also safer.

In 2013, Zou Yi ini­ti­ated the vol­un­teer group the Gi­ant Gooo-go Great Wall, to guide out­door sport fans to Jiankou ev­ery Satur­day and col­lect garbage thrown by other tourists to pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment. They only can­cel the ac­tiv­ity on re­ally smoggy days or when there’s heavy rain or snow.

The group’s mem­bers carry plas­tic bags and stroll around to pick up plas­tic bot­tles and other junk at the site. As they take the rub­bish away, some tourists also help them.

“The nat­u­ral beauty of Jiankou in­spires awe. It is im­por­tant to pre­serve its orig­i­nal form. The Great Wall sym­bol­izes our na­tion. You leave only your foot­prints here, not rub­bish,” says Zou, 55, an of­fice worker from Bei­jing.

He says Jiankou is pretty in all sea­sons.

But the group cau­tions peo­ple against try­ing to climb the danger­ous parts of the Wall here, such as the watch tower whose name means the “ea­gle flies face up­ward”. The tower’s 4 me­ters of stone steps have cor­roded over the years. Last year, the group helped a fe­male Amer­i­can teacher who was trapped in the watch tower.

The lo­cal gov­ern­ment is now re­pair­ing parts of the Wall here.

“To pro­tect the his­tor­i­cal site it­self is also vi­tal. Some­times we stop those who try to take away the bricks of the Wall,” Zou says.

Ac­cord­ing to him, the vil­lage data show that be­tween 200,000 and 300,000 tourists visit Jiankou ev­ery year, in­clud­ing some for­eign­ers. The peak sea­son is sum­mer.

He says about 2,800 peo­ple have joined their weekly ex­cur­sion to Jiankou so far, and each time they’ve gone with one or two dozen peo­ple.

One of them is Yuan Fangchen, who of­ten takes his wife and son to Jiankou with the group.

“Such ac­tiv­i­ties are good for families. My 9-year-old son also learns the im­por­tance of en­vi­ron­men­tal pro­tec­tion,” says Yuan, 51, a part­ner in a Bei­jing law­firm.

The Great Wall sym­bol­izes our na­tion. You leave only your foot­prints here, not rub­bish.” Zou Yi, vol­un­teer

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Mem­bers from a vol­un­teer group in Bei­jing visit Jiankou ev­ery Satur­day and col­lect garbage thrown by other tourists.

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