A Hike On The Part Of The Great Wall Of China That Most Tourists Never See

great wall of china unrestored sectionRindge Leaphart and Nataki Goodall

Photo: Courtesy of Rindge Leaphart

The Great Wall of China, stretching 5,500 miles from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Lake in the west, is one of the great marvels of the world.Most tourists visit Badaling, a section near Beijing that has been heavily restored and and built up as a tourist destination.

But some adventurous tourists venture to the sections of the wall that are less traveled and unrestored. In many cases these sections are difficult to reach and crumbling.

Readers Rindge Leaphart and Nataki Goodall visited one of these sections in 2008 and shared their photos and story with us. The section they hiked, between Jinshanling and Simitai, was closed in 2010 for safety reasons, and tourists have not been allowed there since.

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Badaling, the most popular section of the wall for tourists, is visited by millions of people annually.

But the unrestored section between Jinshanling and Simitai is far less traveled.

The wall, at 5,500 miles, is actually a series of fortifications built as early as the 7th century BC that were eventually joined.

Sections of the wall have been built and rebuilt, while others have disappeared altogether.

When Rindge and Nataki visited on a sweltering June day, they saw no more than 30 hikers in an 8 or 9-hour period.

The pair spent the night before their hike in a hutong, a guest house on the outskirts of Beijing.

The owner's brother dropped them off at one end--and planned to pick them up at the other.

Unfortunately the plans went awry when Nataki got sick from the heat. The pair eventually made it down after several hours with the help of a group of friendly hikers.

But they never made it as far as Simitai.

The couple saw just a handful of unarmed guards during their time on the wall.

Apart from the heat, the biggest challenge was climbing on the crumbling stones, which have stood for thousands of years.

While parts of the wall have been renovated, much of it lies in disrepair.

In some places, locals have taken stones to build their own homes.

Other parts have been destroyed to make way for construction projects.

Apart from fellow hikers and the occasional guard, there were also locals selling water and snacks along the route.

These vendors sold their wares for exorbitant prices, said Nataki.

One even followed them for two hours, trying to sell them a single postcard for $30.

The vendors used watchtowers spread out along the route to store their goods. The towers also made for good resting spots for the hikers.

But since they were unrestored, even the watchtowers could be perilous. At one point, a wall had crumbled and given way to a steep drop.

Due to safety concerns, the section of the wall that Rindge and Nataki hiked has been closed since June 2010.

But it's expected to reopen sometime soon.

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