I’m an adventurer at heart.
I think it’s the Gemini in me that craves new and exhilarating adventures in far off lands but more than that, I think it’s the Gemini in me that constantly loves a feisty challenge. Not a challenge where I compete against another person but a challenge where I compete against my mind, and my mind only. It’s then when I see my true potential.
Climbing the Great Wall, particularly the Simatai section was one of the most gruelling experiences of my life, but it was also one which I’ll never forget purely because of how much I had to mentally push myself. It all started with a Disney team building to Gubei Water Town and a challenge amongst our teammates to see who could climb to the highest tower of the Simatai section in the shortest amount of time.
At first it sounded pretty exciting and well, do-able – more so because I had climbed a different section of Great Wall – Badaling three times already.
Read more Climbing The Great Wall adventures at Badaling here:
If you’ve been to China and climbed Badaling then you’ll know that despite how busy it can get, there has been much restoration of the Wall making it one of the easier sections to climb.
Little did I know how different Simatai would be.
Simatai is located just North of Miyun Town about 120 km outside from central Beijing. The wall itself stretches a distance of 5.4 km from Wangjinglou in the East to Jinshanling in the West. The eastern part of the wall was built along steep mountain ridges and as a result the elevation rises abruptly from 295 m to 986 m. This means that the view is beautiful… but… the sharp rise in elevation can be extremely rigorous on the body, especially if you’re climbing on one of the hotter days of the year (which is what ended up doing).
Simatai is also one of the few sections of the Great Wall to still retain its original rugged appearance.
There are 39 watch towers along the 5.4 km stretch with a distance of about 100 – 200 m between each tower. The wall is steep and dangerous… in fact some parts of the wall have a width of only 40 cm wide making the climb somewhat treacherous.
Much of the wall lacks the hand rails you’d find along most of Badaling. In fact, the majority of Simatai lacks any sort of boundary at all.
What does that mean? Well, simply put, it means there really is nothing to stop you from falling over if you wander too far towards the edge. Yes – your feet and eye co-ordination needs to be impeccable!
We started our day by exploring Gubei Water Town which I honestly believe is one of China’s many hidden secrets. The towns simplicity and old-fashioned vibe will make you feel as though you’ve stepped into a Chinese fairy-tale.
After walking around for a hour we began our trek up the wall.
This must have been one of the hottest days of the year… so much so that we needed to tie our hair back, continuously pour water down our faces and even hike our shirts up.
The heat was unbearable.
Yet we trekked on.
Some of us faster than others… some of just for the fun of it!
This was also one of the most beautiful sections of the Great Wall – with little Chinese tokens strung around on tree branches and barrier chains.
Our hike soon ended and we slowly made our way back down to the town below.
It was finally time for a little exploring with the Disney crew!
I love wandering around little towns because there is so many hidden secrets that you wouldn’t normally find in the bigger tourist spots. We walked along cobblestoned streets and shopped at the little stores all along the way.
As with any Chinese town, street food is always the best!
We wandered on between vines and walls and found some unusual sights like random paintings of angels hanging along street corners.
Before we knew it, the evening began to creep in and glistening street lights started to emerge.
Coloured-lit lanterns hung from street corners and it was as if the lights danced on the waters edge!
The light glow of the yellow street lights made for an almost magical feel and slowly our day at the Gubei Water Town and Simatai drew to a close.
What a beautiful end to an adventurous day at another section of the Great Wall of China.