Great Wall Hike

Great Wall Travel Blog

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For as long as I can remember I have dreamt of seeing the Great Wall of China. It wasn't until recently that I discovered that it was possible to actually hike on remote, unspoiled areas away from the busy tourist spots littered with vendors selling tshirts and other souvenirs. After contacting a guide from a local Beijing hiking club and organizing a few folks from the hotel where I am staying, my dreams became reality.

We left early from the hotel and drove 2 hours north through the Chinese countryside and into the mountains where we arrived at a small village tucked into a valley covered with plum trees. There we met our guide - a small Chinese woman in her 40's who did not speak a word of English.

She jumped into the van with us and led us another 5 or 10 miles into the valley until the dirt road came to an end. From there it was a two mile hike almost straight up to reach the Wall. The hike was almost completely done in silence. I'm not sure if that was because of it's exhausting nature or if we were in such awe of what we were experiencing.

The scenery was breathtaking. As we climbed higher and higher we could spot the guard towers on the surrounding peaks. Connecting the towers, the Wall stretched snake-like along the ridges and seemed to go on forever.

Reaching the Wall, we climbed through a crumbling hole in one side in order to get on top. In either direction the path led straight up the stone steps that led to towers. On either side the mountains dropped off giving you the feeling that one false step would send you tumbling down the side of the mountain.

Over the next several hours we hiked from guard tower to guard tower, stopping at each one to take in the view. In some places the Wall literally crumbling beneath our feet, the guide leading us on tree canopied paths beside it when it was too dangerous. Throughout the hike I couldn't help but think about the people who built this wonder. How did get these huge stones onto the vicarious peaks? Once they did, how did they arrange and construct them so well to survive so many years? How many lost their lives to complete such a project? Looking out on the mountains there was not another soul in sight. Not a town or village, no smoke stacks or power lines. Peak after peak of green dark mountains as far as the eye could see; all connected by the contrasting sand colored stones perched along the ridges. It was dreamlike.

The hike ended back at our guide's village where she prepared a traditional meal and invited us for dinner. It was wonderful. Rice and vegetables grown in the village and a delicious stew-like dish made with some meat (I didn't ask), ginger and cabbage. The eight of us who shared the journey will never forget it and reminisced the entire way back to Beijing. I plan on traveling Xi'an with Marcus and Berit and meeting up with Hanne in Shanghai. I have a feeling that I will keep in touch with them for the rest of my life.

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Great Wall
photo by: 04sarah