Trekking on and off the Wall

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We'd spent days planning our Great Wall trip. Now, we were wondering how in the world we'd get off this world wonder.


We were lost.

Our group gasped hot air and sucked down our last few gulps of water. The sun scorched as we passed donkeys and reconstruction sites.

We'd earlier weighed convenience versus adventure.

Restored or wild Wall? Tour or public bus? Daytrip or weekend expedition?

We gravitated toward immersion and adventure, with a bit of convenience provided by Great Wall Fresh.

The program runs from a countryside guesthouse in a village in Hebei province's Chenjiapu township, under the shadow of an unmaintained stretch of Great Wall in Yutian county that few tourists trek.

Great Wall Fresh offers guided hiking tours, homestyle meals and a comfortable overnight stay.

We'd hopped a Saturday-night bus to Yanqing, where our host, Mr Chen, picked us up.

The following morning, we chose the Hunchback Curve route - one of three itineraries in the area. It's said to be the most scenic yet difficult slog.

The roughly four-hour trudge crosses crumbling arches and stairways, whose physical intensity is matched by visual splendor.

The path is faint but perceptible when it falls off the Wall. The highest viewpoints come about three hours in.

Then we got lost. We didn't have phone signal and tried to ask directions from some workers renovating the bulwark.

We reached the physical finish line about the time we were approaching our physiological limits.

Two workers at the route's end gave us sugar water. Nothing has ever or since tasted sweeter.

Chen arrived. His family treated us to a home-cooked meal.

He drove us from the wild Wall to Beijing's concrete jungle.

We instantly missed the rural environs, despite enjoying respite from the hike.

Still, I'll consider a less strenuous excursion next time.

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