Great Wall at Simatai 1

    I have trouble getting to the Great Wall by taxi. When we tried to get to Badaling in 1993 the car broke down and we had to walk the rest of the way. (See The Great Walk.) This time we rented a taxi for a day in order to go to an unreconstructed portion of the wall at Simatai, 110 km northeast of Beijing. Gail wanted to go there very badly in order to see the real thing. We learned how to go there by bus and taxi, but at the very last minute, as we were leaving the East Gate of BNU, we decided to get a taxi for the whole day. So Gail, Jinghua, and I went to the street and hailed a cab. Jinghua negotiated with the driver for the total price, and he assured her that he know how to get to Simatai. In we jumped and off we went. Bad move!
    To get to Simatai you have to head northeast out of Beijing n the direction to Capital Airport. Badaling is also in the same general direction, but more to the northwest. Our driver thought that he could head toward Badaling and make a right turn, but he was wrong. My first inkling that something was wrong was when we were approaching Badaling. My second inkling was when the driver suddenly pulled over and started checking the map. My third inkling came when he pulled over soon after that. I knew we were in trouble when we actually reached Badaling.
    When I suggested to Gail that we might just call it a day and walk Badaling, I was greeted with a frosty reception. It was to be Simatai or bust. The driver got out and asked directions (something he was to do many times later that day), and somebody told him that we could go just north of Badaling and cut over to the east on a new section of highway.

The problem was to find that new section of highway. We went north and found nothing. Here we are, stopped at an intersection with the driver asking for directions off to the right of the photo. Jinghua and Gail are inside discussing things.

The driver is somewhere across the road getting the scoop on the best way Simatai.

We drove a little farther and had to stop again. Behind us was this modern filling station. Ahead of us was…

this intersection, with the driver across the way talking to the police and the woman cleaning the street with a broom. In the distance is some of the new housing springing up everywhere in that area.

The view behind us.

We eventually found that right turn. What we didn't fully appreciate was that the third side of our particular triangle was very long and had to cross a line of hills before it got to Simatai. As we drove and climbed, it got rougher and colder, and pretty soon everything was covered in snow. Not what we had bargained for! Along the was we passed through several little towns and seemed to get lost in each one. This picture is completely typical of the landscape in the hills.

At one point we came to some kind of obstruction in the road, where traffic was essentially stopped. I don't remember if it was a truck broken down or something stuck in the mud, but we had to pass it very slowly, following that bus around two big lumber trucks that evidently were stopped on opposite sides of the road. Men and boys were standing around watching the progress of things.

Here we are making our way around the lumber trucks. The bus has just about made it.

Here is another typical agrarian scene along the way. This is the real China, and it ain't Beijing!

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