We started early on Saturday (8:15), caught the subway to Dongzhimen and at Dongzhimen we took the 980 bus to Miyun (970 also goes, FYI). The tickets were just 10RMB each and the journey lasted a little less than an hour with lots of stops in between. On reaching Miyun we haggled with the local taxi drivers and took two taxis to Gubeikou for 20RMB per person (the distance from Miyun to Gubeikou was about 58km).
The taxi driver dropped us off at the Gubeikou village and left, there was no great wall in sight and we did not know where to go. So we stumbled around the village miming and gesturing for directions to the great wall. We finally got a lady who promised to take us to JinShanLing without having to pay the 25RMB entrance fee. It turned out that the great wall was just 500m behind her house and she took us there, pointed towards JinshanLing and went back. It was gonna be tough going to JinShanling without a guide, especially to navigate the part where the path on the wall would be blocked by the army camp.
We started the walk at around 1pm and the weather was not ideal for the hike that day. The good part was that it was not very cold but it was dull grey all around and visibility was limited to a few hundred meters. The wall was great though, it was completely wild and raw with vegetation growing along the path where we were walking. After a couple of hour's we came across a watch tower with its entrance sealed. There were no directions or even signs pointing us to the detour but only the words "Prohibited Military Area, No Entrance" greeting us. We finally found a small path leading down the slope and thus began our attempt at bypassing the military blockade.
We walked, always keeping the wall in sight (on our right side). There were these small red ribbons tied to plants all along the way and i thought that the trial was marked out using these ribbons. We had hoped to rejoin the wall pretty quickly but after an hour of walking we were getting farther and farther away from the wall rather than getting close to it. Finally we met a villager and asked him for directions to JinShanLing (later i realized that we should've asked for directions to the wall and not to JiinShanLing) and set off in the direction pointed by him. Another hour of walking and we were no closer to the wall and it was getting close to 5pm and getting cold and dark pretty fast. A light panic started to spread among the group, no one wanted spend the night out here in the open without any sleeping bags or any other sort of protection. Its moments like these that you tend to look back and enjoy later on.
Getting desperate, we paid 60RMB to a villager to give us a lift on his 3 wheel pickup cart to the main road. The dropped us off to the road in two batches with 4 to 5 people jammed into the cart in each batch. It was 6pm and completely dark before we finally flagged down a van and asked him to take us to JinShanLing. The driver was amazingly patient with us and drove us to some 3-4 different guesthouses before we finally settled on one. We were all grateful and wanted to pay him extra for his troubles but he would have none of it. We spent the night at a dormitory in a farmers place and the next morning we set off to walk the JinShanLing to Simatai section.
This time everything was organized and went on as it should. We paid the entrance fee and got on the wall, the initial parts of the wall was completely restored and looked brand new. As we went along the 'newness' disappeared and the wall was 'original' again and it was great. It was sunny that morning and the visibility was great. We could see the great wall snaking its way across the mountain tops with the guard towers set at regular intervals. Later, the sight reminded me of the Beacon of Amon DÃ®n scene the Lord of the Rings. The wall was pretty steep and at some points we had to scramble up on all fours. Some of the guys in the group got lazy (and smart as well) and got off the wall to take a detour around the steep parts of the wall by walking on a mountain path.
The walk was hard but also a lot of fun, especially with a big group of friends. Finally we reached the Simatai section of the great wall, if we wanted, we could've continued on and climbed the other side of the Simatai section but everyone was tired and we decided to call it quits. Promising to come back later during the winter when it would've snowed.