This past weekend Aya and I spotted that we had a good air day coming in Beijing and neither of us had obligations, so we signed up for Beijing Hikers to do a hike north of the city in the mountains. We have been living in Beijing for almost 3 years and most of that time we talked about doing one of these hikes, but the air is always a toss up and most weekends I work so time kept ticking away until this weekend we finally had the opportunity to go. I signed us up via the Beijinghikers website and we were put on standby for that Saturday's hike. Most hikes fill up 5-7 days in advance. Lucky for us they decided there were enough people on standby to get another, smaller bus to follow their regular large one. We took a car down to the Lido hotel in Beijing where we met up with other hikers at 830. After about 20 minutes of checking names and handing out bananas everything seemed in order. So, two buses with about 40 people, we headed north to Little West Lake. It took about 2 hours to get there with a potty stop mid way. Most of the drive was through the norther burbs of Beijing, familiar territory for us.
The drive was fine and we started our hike near the top of the mountain. There were not many other groups on the wall or first part of the trail, but in true Chinese fashion those people who were there were chatting noisily and a few of them were blaring music from devices as they hiked breaking the serenity. Also in true Chinese fashion, people never gave way if there was only room for one person to pass on a trail, if they decided to sit for a rest it was always right in the middle of the trail, and a lot of the people I saw hiking just threw their trash on the wall or off the side and there were areas were you could see it was thick with trash. Hey, it's not my country, but if it were...
The first part of the hike we spent 2-3km on a restored part of the wall. It was pretty steep going up and down between towers and took us about 1.5 hours to get through that bit. The next part, where our guides had held up the lead group, was a little bit of a fairly flat stretch through some orchards. That only lasted about 1km before we were back up on the wall, this time an unrestored section. Again we encountered many Chinese hikers. Another 1-2km along the unrestored wall and we could see the end, a ticket shed at the bottom of a steep descent. Once our group came together there we walked the last part of the hike, all flat along a lake and through a park that was packed with people, and then to the parking lot.
After we got all our people together we boarded and had a short drive to a place to have lunch. By then it was about 3pm, so a pretty late lunch, but a few people in our group straggled so we were a bit behind. Lunch was at a local place on a balcony overlooking a reservoir, so pretty nice view and the food was good. After lunch we packed in the buses to head back to the city and most everyone fell asleep from food and weariness. As we approached the edges of Shunyi we asked if we could jump out. It seemed like an odd spot, but it was only 4km from there to our home whereas the bus was going downtown which would probably mean another 45 minutes to get there and then another 45 minutes to turn around and come back to Shunyi. It was no problem to just jump out and from there we took a cab back to our apartment so we were home by 530pm.
Overall I liked the hike and might do one again if I can find the time, but I'm not sure if I want to. Driving out of the city, then being surrounded by Chinese crowds is not exactly a stress reliever. One of our guides was asked if he had been to the Ming Tombs (a popular tourist spot we passed on the way) and he replied that he never had nor would want to since it would mean crowds. He then went on to say that despite living in Beijing for 8 years he had hardly went to any of the touristy spots because he couldn't stand the crowds. I agree, so if we go again we will aim for a place that is a little more off the beaten path.