The Great Wall of China!

Sleep shmeep. We woke up at 5:30am, some of us more easily than others, and got ready for our day at the Great Wall. The tour bus was leaving at 6:00am and it was to be a three hour drive to the outskirts of Beijing, where the section of the Wall that we were visiting was located. Surprise surprise, we were the last people to board the bus (we may have held them up a few extra minutes… oh well :D) and I was surprised to find the little bus packed. Our excursion the day before had been considerably small, but I learned that there were around 70 people on this tour (there was another full, bigger bus accompanying ours to the Great Wall). Our bus was very compact and stuffy, with very little leg room, but once we were on the road we were able to listen to our ipods and doze off. After about 2 hours the bus halted at a rest-stop so we got a chance to stretch our legs. About an hour later we finally arrived at the Wall!

The guide in charge of our tour gave us a bit of background information on the wall during the ride, so we knew that there was a short uphill hike to get to the wall from the parking lot. Once we were off the bus we made sure to go to the bathroom and grab some snacks from the local salespeople next to the parking lot, as we’d have 3 hours to adventure on the Wall and chances of getting food up there were slim. Once we were all set, we headed up a road that led to the Wall and after about 10 minutes we reached the stairway that would lead us to the Wall’s entrance. The pathway was very steep at times, with huge, ancient stairs that felt like 2 stairs in one when I was climbing it. The stairway was surrounded by bushes and trees but at times I could look up and see a very clear, distinct view of the Wall from below and I would stop to take a picture. In the morning light (it was only about 9:30-10am) the Wall looked impressively ancient and venerable, and I remember climbing very quickly because I couldn’t wait to get to the top and take pictures!

It was about a 10 minute climb before we reached the Wall’s entrance. Inside we had the option of going right or left, and we chose left and began our Great Wall hike. The Wall is such an experience! The aged, antiquated look of it really makes for brilliant, beautiful photos. There are areas on the wall that are wonderfully smooth and easy to walk on, and others that made you think twice about where you stepped, incase you twist your ankle. There are steep staircases that sometimes feel as if you’re climbing a ladder vertically, castle-like fortresses with lookout windows and stairways that led to rooftops that were amazing to take pictures on. Sometimes the Wall required us to climb over 100 steps at once to get to the next fortress, or walk along a narrow bridge that would mean a 12 foot fall if you lost your balance. There were a lot of tourists around, but there were also locals selling souvenirs and water. We were warned not to talk to the locals, who follow you around and offer help, only to demand money from you later on.

The Great Wall is by far my favourite memory from the trip. Actually being on the Great Wall is such a thrill, it’s hard to believe that I’ve walked it! During the three hours that I spent on it, there were times when I would stop and think “Oh my God, I’m actually here. I’m actually in China, walking on the Great Wall!” It felt very surreal. We ventured across the Wall for about 2 hours before deciding to head back, in fear that we wouldn’t make it back in time for lunch if we didn’t turn around then. It only took us half an hour to walk back to the entrance because we had stopped to take so many pictures before. After resting briefly near the entrance, we left the Wall and began our descent down towards the parking lot and the restaurant where we would be having our free lunch.

Lunch was fairly disgusting, we all agreed. After it was over we got back on the bus and began the trip home, which took a lot longer than the trip there because Beijing traffic is insanely busy. We arrived back at the hostel around 4:00pm and rested for a while. We started getting dressed around 6:30pm to go for dinner, which we decided was to be at The Hard Rock Cafe, the popular American chain that just so happened to be near our hostel. We needed our western-food fix, after living of Chinese food in Hohhot for 4 months! We had planned to go out after the restaurant, but it was very pricey and none of us had brought enough money with us! We all opted to go back to the hostel and drink at the little bar on it’s roof. There we played Kings, Things, and Truth or Dare (mature, I know!) and we met some new people that were also staying at our hostel. The bar on top of the hostel closed around 12:00am and we continued the party with our new friends in our hostel room! We had to leave for Qingdao by train at 7:00am the next morning, meaning we had to be up around 5:30am again to catch the train on time, but that didn’t stop us from staying up until around 3:00am! We regretted this decision after only getting 2-3 hours of sleep, but we had a blast that night all the same!

The saga continues in Qingdao, next blog!


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Gail Johnson
    Oct 19, 2011 @ 22:30:59

    I felt like you when I saw the picture of you walking on the “Great Wall”. It gave me a surreal feeling too for you. I printed one picture and have been showing it to all my friends.
    What a great experience! Love you! Nan


  2. Tricia Allan
    Oct 20, 2011 @ 08:02:26

    The Wall is pretty amazing. It’s definitely on the list of things to do again when we go back to China. It was fun to see pictures of you and Derek up there! Can you imagine – Richard has lived in China for almost four years and has yet to see it. Tsk tsk.


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