We survived another overnight train, this time to Beijing- it wasn’t really ideal in terms of timings as we boarded around 10pm and got off at 6am. By the time you’ve sorted your bags and bed and settled down, there wasn’t enough time for a good sleep really, particularly considering what would face us in Beijing….
The tour cut straight to the chase and following a little bit of refreshment time on arrival, it was time to set off for the Great Wall. There’s something enigmatic about the Great Wall- everyone can recognise it and knows it’s name, but very few people really know much about it, myself included. I was extremely surprised to learn of just how ‘great’ it really is. Designed as the sixth concentric fortress around the city, the wall spans hundreds and hundreds of kilometres in length. Much of the wall is unrestored due to the magnitude of it, and the restored section is only a very small portion and thus swamped with tourists. Our tour however, only stopped briefly near the restored part and instead took us to a ‘locals only’ section which we could gain access to following a local meal with a family and a hike. Being able to get to this section of the wall was really thrilling- there was no one in sight except for our tour group, making the visit extra special.
We collected our camping gear at the bottom of a rocky path: two sleeping bags, a basic tent and a ground mat for the two of us- we were ready to go. We had remembered to bring caribina clips for the equipment so we strapped ourselves in and set off, at the back of the group as usual so we could stop to enjoy the scenery (and catch our breath) as often as we liked. As we started the climb the silence was glorious- nothing except for the gentle tick from crickets or the occasional rustle from other local wildlife…idyllic.
The scenery was stunning- rolling hills surrounded us, and the higher we climbed the more peaks of other mountains emerged. It was just getting better and better. The climb was challenging at times but it was much easier than the Dharma Hike in Shaolin. Of course I stumbled over a few times, but what would a hike without a few cuts and bruises be?
We finally reached our destination to be greeted by lots of our group already setting up camp, so we cooled off briefly before starting our own. The tents were really basic 2 man tents so it only took us about 15 minutes to get everything done, leaving us enough time to scramble up the wall to the nearest look out tower. The rocks were rather loose as the area is completely unrestored, and my issues with heights weren’t particularly helpful as the drops at the side of the wall were significant. However, we got to the tower none the less and were able to photograph the breath taking surroundings. The photos are stunning, but seeing it in real life was incomparable. The magnitude of the mountains made me realise more fully how small we are in this great, big world, and how much there is that we can’t imagine. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I don’t think I can ever forget just how awesome this planet it is now I’ve seen it.
It was rather smokey but fun none the less. We toasted marshmallows on sticks and huddled together to keep warm (we were quite high up so the warmth wasn’t what we had become accustomed to) before settling down for an early night.