Upon arrival, our group was given an informative half day tour of Beijing, which included the Forbidden Palace, Tiananmen Square and a public bus trip that was quite an experience. We also got to sample 'Peking Duck' at a local restaurant, and got a good nights sleep in a comfortable hotel.
On the first day of the trek, our merry group of 12 walked on the Jiankou section of the Great Wall. This was an un-refurbished part of the wall, and was all the more beautiful for this fact. Starting with 'the 38 steps', this section proved an excellent beginning to the trek.
Day two saw us walk on another part of the Jiankou part of the wall that led to the Muntian Yu section. This was an interesting today as Muntian Yu is a restored section and one of the more popular tourist destinations. The contrast between the unchanged and restored sections was very easy to get a feel of and helped encapsulate how different parts of the wall can be. Personally, I preferred the Jiankou section but that's not to say that Muntian Yu wasn't worth seeing. Indeed, the Luge back to the bottom of the hill was a lot of fun! That night we drove to Gubeiko and saw the sunset over the Great Wall. A wonderful sight with a beer in hand.
On day three, we walked to the 'Crouching Tiger' on the Gubeiko section of the Great Wall. It was a tough climb to the unrestored wall but once there, the wall was yet again enchanting to walk on. We returned back to Gubeiko and our guide gave us a little tour of the village, which proved an interesting backdrop on the lives of emperors and people in pre-Communist revolution China. The guest house in Gubeiko was charming and the social area was a nice area to chill out in.
Day four saw our group walk on another part of the Gubeiko wall - 'Hidden Dragon'. This was our longest day of walking and looking back, it was probably my favourite day. After leaving the Gubeiko section, we crossed through a lush forest valley and ascended to the Jinshanling section, which is another restored section. The Jinshanling wall was probably the most photogenic of all sections and we often stopped to marvel as yet more unmissable photo opportunities presented themselves.
On day 5, we walked further along the breath taking Jinshanling section up until the wall becomes the Simitai section. Unfortunately, this was closed for repairs but is due to open soon. It looked spectacular. After the trek, we returned to Jinshanling for lunch and then drove for a couple of hours to a 'standard' city hotel where we managed to have yet another fantastic meal.
Day 6 was our final day of trekking. We visited the Qing tombs, which again proved to be a fascinating insight in to the history of the last emperor (who isn't buried with his family - he was cremated) and his relations. In the afternoon, we walked on the Huangyaguan part of the wall. This was again refurbished but very quiet. It is part of the Great Wall Marathon and was another very scenic section of wall. That particular day was very warm for our group - 36 degrees Celsius. Despite the short distance, this was perhaps the most challenging day.
After spending the night at this section of the wall, we drove back to Beijing, and had a free day to check out Beijing. Our guide was great for advice. Personally, I headed out to have a tour of the Olympic stadium but many others went to the Pearl Market. That night, we attended either a Kung Fu show or an Acrobat show, which finished off the holiday in style.
I would advise that you would have to be reasonably physically fit to do this holiday. Not super-fit but able to walk long distances in hot conditions. Age isn't an issue; we had a 65 year old and two 67 year olds in our group and they put my 32 year old self to shame!
I would thoroughly recommend taking your own toilet paper. All guest houses and hotels have western style toilets but few had toilet paper, and it's difficult to source more if you run out.
Don't try to take deodorant or insect repellent in to the Forbidden Palace. They see it as a fire hazard and you will lose them! You can however take in cigarettes and lighters. Not that I'm bitter... Ha ha.
Lastly, I would recommend not taking the group flight. I arrived at the hotel at 9am and the walking tour of Beijing began at 1 pm. I don't really sleep well on planes so I wasn't well rested that afternoon. The return group flight was late at night and I would have loved to relax one extra night in the hotel and fly the next day.