The first day and a half of walking on the Great Wall - stunning scenery and amazing to walk and scramble the Wall with just the rest of group for company. It really was OUR Great Wall. I felt very honoured to be there. Six days of walking different sections of the Wall held everyone's interest - seeing the different architecture and materials used. The sweeping views at every turn - breathtaking.
The local guesthouses were a surprisingly pleasant experience. Friendly and welcoming. Plentiful, well cooked food and clean beds. Sure, the bathrooms were basic and not always the most clean. That is why you take flip flops, right? The guesthouse in Gubeiko, where we spent two nights, was lovely. Three generations of a Chinese family looked after us. Even found us a mah-jong set when the thunderstorms set in one evening. Then sat beside us and helped us to play. Sign language works wonders.
Six days of walking sounds arduous but, on average, we were walking approx. 3 to 4 hours a day. We had one 'tough' day when we walked for 5 and a half hours. It is very up and down and the terrain in rough. You need to watch your footing pretty much all of the time. So remember to stop from time to time and take it all in!!
All of the guesthouses and hotels had clean linen - I took a sleeping bag liner as a just in case and did use it a few times. The state run hotel in Jingshangling is grim - damp and visible mould on the walls. Apparently all foreign tourists are required to stay there. Kevin did prepare us but it was a depressingly place to spend the night. All part of the adventure! Can see the funny side now.
Food was hot, plentiful and tasty. We had a veggie and gluten-free in our group and Kevin liaised with the guesthouses to ensure we were well fed. Aubergine and tomato dish a particular favourite with us all! Egg fried rice seemed to appear at every turn but it was tasty and even got used to having it for breakfast.
August is hot hot hot! Averaging 34 degrees with high humidity. April, May, September would probably be better months to do this particular trip.
Essentials - wick away tops, hat (no shade on the Wall!), good mosquito repellent, flip flops, spare pillowcase, snacks (Chinese in rural areas seem to eat three meals a day with nothing in between!) Be aware that the humidity means that handwashing does not really dry - apart from the thinnest wick away top!