Our first glimpses of the Great Wall of China came from the bus journey there. It seemed to snake alongside us, high up on the mountain and crossing the road ahead of us. Before even arriving we knew this was going to be special. The area we were heading to was much more rural than the area of the wall many other tourists go to. In order to gain access to this part of the wall we had to have dinner with the family that own the land the section of the wall is on. Once again we had more food than we were able to eat!
We then collected our tents and sleeping bags and began the assent up the mountain to reach the wall. The assent was hard, I am not used to climbing with additional weight on my back! This became less of an issue as we got closer to the top and glimpses became visible. Without a doubt, the view of this wall made the climb worth it! Matt and I were the first people in the group to climb onto the wall, where we waited for the rest of the group to catch up. As a group we set up our tents, then were allowed to explore the wall.
We had two options to explore, left (the route we were advised was safer) or right. Obviously we went right and began to climb up the steep section - parts of which required us to use our hands to climb. This part of the wall has not been refurbished and many of the stones were broken and loose, making it much more fun to climb.
When we reached the highest part, the views were amazing. There were rolling mountains and no matter what direction you looked you could see other parts of the wall on top of the mountains. It was amazing how the wall would move up and down the tallest mountains, completely encasing you in all directions. Although we were only on a tiny part of the wall, you could really get a feeling for the extent of the wall. On our way back to camp we found parts of the wall that had been reconstructed and other parts that hadn't, it was amazing to compare how it would have looked all those years ago to how it looks today. The sunset on the wall was one of the best things I have ever seen, it felt so surreal.
The Great Wall's construction began around 200AD and finished only 100 years ago. The Emperor would demand that towns build their sections within a set period of time and due to tyrannical rule, people did!
In the evening, we had a campfire to try and keep warm - people toasted marshmallows and our Beijing tour guide, Noodles, told stories about the history of the wall. That night was the coldest of my life. No matter what I did, I couldn't warm up and kept waking up cold in the night. But, should I have the chance to do it again (even in colder conditions), I would!
We woke up at 5.30 to begin hiking the wall in the dark and watch the sunset from the left hand side of the wall. After such a small amount of sleep this seemed crazy, but Matt was right, waking up would be worth it. When we initially climbed onto the wall, the path was so dark that we needed torch light to be able to see where we were stepping. After several minutes everything began to get lighter, until the time of the sunrise.
Unfortunately there was too much cloud to see it! So instead, we continued further along the wall than we had initially planned, waiting for the sun to peep over the clouds. No matter what point you get to on the wall, the next bit looks just as amazing and you want to climb there, even if it means walking down a mountain and back up another. The view always felt different from the different parts of the wall. But each view was amazing.
When we returned to where we were camping, several members of the group were very cold and packing to go back to central Beijing. With regret, we had to leave this wonder of the world.