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Hot Hiking above the General’s Pass


“My car (che) is in Zhangzuo Village, how do I get there?” “Oh you want to eat (chi) in Zhangzuo?” “Okay, uh, (to other lady) is there a bus to Zhangzuo?” “Sorry, I’m deaf!”. Oh. “What did he say? I can’t hear!” Between my rusty Chinese, the old ladies’ rusty Chinese, and a few hearing problems, our hike to the General’s Pass ended in a bit of a comedy of errors. It had been a long day, a sudden heat snap in Beijing’s usually mild spring hitting us during the rugged ten kilometers of rocky, early Ming wall. Negotiating nearly a kilometer of vertical gain with a new puppy who needed carrying most of the way, topped off a pretty tough day. But as always on the Great Wall, there were wonderful views, interesting features, and friendly villagers. As I’ve said before, if you’re tired of the Wall, you’re tired of life.

Click through for photos.

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Sunrise above Shuitoucun

Sunrise above Shuitoucun. Set off at three in the morning, a cold November Sunday, hike four kilometers through fog and forest to the pass, down to the Watergate and then up the long line of Great Wall. The first light rises as you breach the cloudbase, and then, southeast, to your left, the huge yellow sun bursts into the world from beyond the range.

A fine end to a year’s hiking. And, hopefully, as the kid gets bigger, a sign of more in the year ahead.

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Choosing your GPS solution for hiking

Self portrait with GPS

Recently, one of Journeys, &c’s most loyal readers asked about choosing a GPS solution for hiking. Though far from expert, I’ve had a bit of experience using GPS, including to save my bacon on at least one occasion.

The trick with GPS is to know how to survive without it. Once you can do that, it adds a welcome margin of safety and convenience to your trips. Read on for the Journeys, &c take on this great technology.

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Gansu Province’s Incredible Great Walls and Silk Road Sites: Part II

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I’m a mountain guy, I decided, after just a few hours in the outskirts of the Gobi desert. It was hot, and blowy, the Great Wall we were following was practically impossible to see, and the ground beneath us was parched and covered in huge salt pans. Give me a goat track, I thought. A ridge ripped by a cold wind from Siberia, and a Ming wall I can actually see. But my friend Chinoook is made of sterner stuff (though I give him a run for his money on my home turf). Out ahead, he led the way through the salt pans towards a brown smudge on the horizon. “There’s the wall”, he promised. I squinted. “Sure it is”, I thought skeptically. But he was right. Just meters off a salt pan they could have used as a set for Mordor in the Lord of the Rings, stood an enormous, multi-tiered wall – a giant layer cake two thousand years old.

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Seven Days Trekking in Iceland


Got a bit of puppy fat? Wanna lose it? Try this hike. I went in weighing 74kg. Seven days later, I was 62kg. In between, I’d lugged 30 kg up and down mountains, through rivers, across snow fields and volcanic plains. I’d eaten anything I could lay my hands on, including fish served through my tent window by an Icelandic child in the middle of a downpour. We saw sun, wind, rain and snow, just on the first day. And in all that time, I only had one shower. It was three minutes long and cost about five bucks. Welcome to the Laugavegur – Iceland’s famous and awesome trek.

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Adventures on the Baihebao Great Wall Part One

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Twenty two kilometers of rolling hills and clifftops. Glorious views over the reservoir to rugged mountains beyond. And pristine Ming Dynasty stone wall very rarely traversed. As I like to say, if you’re tired of the Great Wall, you’re tired of life.

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Memo for Next Time – Bring More Water

If your Camelbak crumples with a demoralising gurgle, you know you’ve run out of water. It’s a particularly disappointing realisation when you still have several hours of climbing ahead and it’s getting hotter by the moment. Such was my predicament on the Great Wall above Sancha a few weekends back. How I got through it is a short tale of “adapt and overcome”, sprinkled with the never-exhausted “kindness of strangers” that makes life in China much easier than one might think it is. Click through for more on my solo overnight microadventure, and discover how I got from here to beer:

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Mt Jagungal and the Rolling Grounds

Summer in the Snowies. Fire risk, hot wind, horse flies the size of your fist. Perfect for a four day hike, right? Maybe not, but if you stay indoors with the aircon you also miss the alpine meadows, cool, fresh streams, snow gums and mountain huts. And above all, you’d miss the wonderful views from mighty Mount Jagungal, crows soaring in the updrafts, a glorious place on a deep blue sky day.   DSCN4423_1000

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