Overnight on the Great Wall

If you missed out on my first day in Beijing and the Forbidden City, you can check it out {HERE}!

Monday, July 11

So, I apologize, I fibbed, just a bit. In my last post I told you I visited the Forbidden City and then went to bed that night...not exactly...I was determined, and until I thought I had exhausted the last of my resources I didn't go to bed until WAY too late. 

Going to Beijing I knew for certain that I just HAD to go to the Great Wall, I mean, did you REALLY go to Beijing if you didn't see the wall?! Getting to Beijing I figured I'd hop on a tour bus, spend a long day checking out the wall and then head back to the city; as time progressed though I grew more and more determined to spend more than just ONE day on the wall though {a little foresight would have gone a l.o.n.g way here}. I collapsed in my bed after my first night exploring the Forbidden City pulled out my laptop and started investigating...who had last minute openings to spend a night on the wall?? I sent out several desperate email attempts and assuming that no one would answer me past midnight, quickly fell asleep.

The next morning I woke up e.a.r.l.y and excitedly checked my emails "Dear Tracy, I am happy to receive your email, I have one overnight trip leaving this morning at 9:30am, please reply if you are able to make it"....BINGO! I hit reply, threw a couple things in my backpack, ran to the bank to exchange some more money and headed to our meeting location just in the nick of time (ok maybe a few minutes late...but hey, I made it!) We loaded the 6 of us plus our guide Sonya into a van and we were off with adrenaline pumping through my veins!

Close to 2.5 hours later we climbed out of the van and were greeted in Chinese by an elderly lady that ran a small guest house of sorts out of her home located at the base of the wall. We stretched ourselves out and sat down for a traditional Chinese lunch before filling our backpacks with water and starting our adventure! There was a trail leading up to a portion of the wall within less than 10 minutes walking from this woman's home {can you even imagine saying that you live RIGHT next to the Great Wall of China?!} We hiked for just over 3 hours (our Chinese-only speaking guide, Cameron & John from Connecticut, Raphael from California, Lauren from the UK, Amy an Englisher herself living in New Zealand, && myself) and covered roughly 5 miles along the wall. Now before you begin judging us for our slow walking capabilities; our hike was full of  large hills small mountains, quite uneven rocks, and the heat index was well over 105! But we had a BLAST!

When you generally see pictures of the Great Wall you see {this} large beautifully redone portions of the wall, with safely rebuilt steps, handrails, side guards, and thousands of people...I didn't want any of that! There were several portions we walked on that hard large chucks of the wall missing where it was only safe for 1 person to cross at a time, we were constantly slipping on the uneven rocks we were walking on, and falling off the side of the wall was a real  easy possibility for a good 80% of our hike...and it was all AMAZING! Yet to boot, in the 3 hours we hiked, we saw 4 people...we had the wall to ourselves, and let me tell you, to say that the views were breathtaking doesn't even begin to do it justice, it just completely takes your breath away and reminded me so much of another similar awe inspiring experience HERE.

From the highest points on the wall you could see out for miles upon miles; the lush rolling mountains, teensy tiny little towns scattered about, and the wall spreading out like spider arms in every direction you looked. It was truly indescribable!

Just when we thought we couldn't walk any further we started our decent down and were met by our van from early in the day that took us back to the small guest house. Here we were armed with large hiking backpacks full of our gear for the night along with our dinner and we quickly headed up a small dirt path leading to a watch tower that would serve as our home for the night!

To summarize our evening: 

- Eat dinner on the Great Wall of China...check
- Play card games on the Great Wall of China...check
- Walk barefooted on the Great Wall of China...check
- Share beers with new friends on the Great Wall of China...check
- Watch the sunset on the Great Wall of China...check {though thanks to smog it wasn't too pretty lol}
- Pitch a tent & sleep on the Great Wall of China...check!
- Experiance total and complete darkness, wake up at 4:30 in the morning to the sound of the birds and bugs coming alive, watch the sunrise, and go for a morning walk all on the Great Wall of China...check, check, & double check!

Guys, I've said it before and I hope I can say it again, but this truly was a once in a life time experience that I will never forget! Some people say that I'm crazy, or super adventurous, or that I can't sit still. While all these things may be slightly true ;) why not embrace them?! There is so much of this amazing world to go out and see, you just have to be open enough to grab life by the horns and let it take you where it wills!

Like my favorite Magic School Bus teacher always said: