Great Wall of China? Completed it Mate!
This week’s blog comes from our resident blogger and Teach China Graduate Program 2018 cohort, Jonas Groom. Jonas had the opportunity of a lifetime to hike up and see the Great Wall of China in all its beauty.
The Journey Begins!
Now we all know it wouldn’t be a real trip to China without an Instagram post of myself on the Great Wall! I knew this and that is why within the first few months of teaching in China I joined my roommate John and his two friends from home (Kieran and Shae) on their journey to the Great Wall.
Anyway, I’ll skip the intro but keep reading because you’re about to hear something a little more than just your standard ultra-touristy Great Wall day trip! There was no bus picking us up and dropping us off in the same day, the four of us were led by a private tour guide – David, up to original, crumbling sections of the Wall. Far from the reconstructed tourist traps you see plastered all over Facebook and Instagram.
It all started by being picked up in a van and driving three hours away, we arrived at a small village at the foot of a mountain range – far from the hustle and bustle of Beijing. Departing the Van with our backpacks, David led us through orchards behind houses and it almost felt as though we were trespassing!
Trodding through the fields, we started to notice large stones abnormally spaced around these fields. David explained that these were parts of the Wall that farmers had reused in their own walls. This first encounter with the Wall was a fascinating taste of what was to come!
The incline started to get very steep until we were basically crawling up the mountain. Then suddenly, the immediate terrain became flat and boom! There we were standing on the Great Wall of China! David explained this had been a guard tower – as it jutted out from the main continuous stretch of Wall. Positioned out looking over the surrounding valley and village this was the perfect chance to get some insta snaps! And boy we made sure everyone knew about our fascinating discovery!
Clambering our way to the top…
Anyway, we had a quick break and continued up the Wall. Now OH&S isn’t a thing in China, and it was not during this private tour. There we were on top of the Wall, walking along a path no more than eight metres wide. Either side we were flanked by a steep drop, and occasionally there was no longer a side barrier to protect us from slipping! This authenticity and danger added the sheer magnificence of what we were doing. Hiking up and up we made it to an intact guard tower! Clambering up on top, John got his drone out and me my camera as we soaked it all in!
Just like the Chinese soldiers from the past two thousand years, there we were, looking out over the rolling mountains and lakes and out to the misty distance – guarding our new homeland!
We continued along the Wall, I didn’t feel tired nor did I need any rest. This experience was truly exhilarating. I know you see a lot of these quotes on the internet but you definitely need to climb the Great Wall – it is truly something spectacular! An experience I’m cherishing for the rest of my life – Ha! Cringe! But really it is!
Moving on from that soppy paragraph we eventually descended from the Wall as it was dusk. Unfortunately, we did not make it in time and there was a certain amount of time clambering down the mountain in the dark with the light of our phones leading the way! We had dinner at David’s contacts house, I was going to say a restaurant, but it was basically a Chinese grandma and grandpa cooking our food and bringing it to the table – definitely something more special than a restaurant.
Leaving the house after the most delicious meal I’ve had yet in China we drove another twenty minutes, parked up, and carried our tents and sleeping bags to a reconstructed part of the Wall. Here we set up our tents and attempted to get cosy for the night, however, this turned out a bit as, well, we were on a wall! Waking up at 4:30 am, we set off up the Wall again, to a spot David said is spectacular for the sunrise. With our phone lights leading the way once again we continued until the sunlight became enough for us to safely hike without them.
The most jaw-dropping views I’ve ever seen!
Now ladies and gentlemen, this is where I witnessed one of the most jaw-dropping views of my life!
After about thirty minutes we made it to a guard tower with an amazing 360 view of the surrounding landscape. We arrived just in time to witness the Sun creep up over the mountain range directly in front of us.
Slowly the sun Illuminated the Great Wall and the breathtaking views around us. This was insane! There we were, four lads watching the sunrise over the Great Wall of China!!! I’ll refrain from including anymore cringeworthy description sentences as the photos below speak for themselves. After the sunrise, we clambered back down to our tents, had breakfast in the local village and then headed back to Beijing.
I hope you enjoyed this post as much as I did as it brought me back to one of the most memorable trips of my life!