mountains and clean, fresh, breathable air. Driving through an old, local village we stopped at the Major'ss house for a light lunch. Used to eating typical Beijing style food we were happy to eat some new and quite interesting dishes. As always the food kept on coming and we found ourselves very full. The Major's house had a courtyard in the middle and was structured in the old style of Chinese houses, even if there was a rather large, strange fake photograph of two Western children hanging on the wall. Back in the van for about twenty minutes we suddenly stopped on a sharp bend and were told to get our bags organised as we were going to start hiking. Setting off into the wilderness felt great, we were all in high spirits and at this early stage we had good hopes for what lay before us.
We walked along the old part of the Great wall that was crumbling into the ground but still maintained its shape and grandeur that it once had hundreds of years ago. The mountains were a vast aray of green, red, orange, yellow and purple, the first signs of Autumn approaching. We hiked higher and higher, getting further away from the hussle and craziness of city life. The air was cool, but the sun was shining as we were attacked by branches, scrambled up mud paths, ate chocolate biscuits and got further into the mountains. As we came over the top of the hill we were stunned to see the Wall, there it was staight ahead, whiving over the tops of the mountains like a giant, stone snake. It was breathtaking. To think that men and women actually built this wall with their bare hands, risking their lives to protect their country. We trekked through trees and almost got lost before we found ourselves standing on the wall. There wasn't another human being for miles, we couldn't see any buildings, only vast stretches of monutains and wall.
We set down our bags, took some photos and waited to be told where to next. Thinking we still needed to find a place to camp we prepared to walk further, only to discover that we were camping right here, on the wall, with no barriers on either side, a fierce wind blowing and thr thought that in one hour its going to be dark and I may just end up falling off the wall. So we did as we were told and set up camp, quite a challenge to pitch a tent on stone. Yet we huddled the tents together and prayed they wouldn't be blown off the wall as we tried to find a safe place to relieve ourselves as the sun began to set.
Soon the BBQ was ready and food was being served. Plates of chicken, bread, cheddar cheese, cucumber, tomatoes, hot mushrooms and avacado were being laid before us, our mouths watering! We munched on everything whilst sharing wine and then vodka, to warm the insides of course! It was a friends birthday so we had cake and more vodka and set balloons off the Wall. We stayed together, a little scared to wander too far incase we hit the edge and took a tumble! It got colder and colder but we laughed and chatted about everything and nothing. We shared gummy sweets, cookies, crisps and vodka to keep warm, we played Never Have I Ever, which was both far too revealing but hilarious. Soon the cold was creeping into our bones and we retreated into the tents. The night was windy, uncomfortable and bloody freezing. I swear at times I thought we had rolled off the Wall, or that the wind was going to lift us off the Wall all together. But we survived and as the sun came up over the mountains the view was astonishing. A sleepless night had been paid off by waking up on the Great Wall of China (still in one piece).
Breakfast was delightful, after almost nine months I finally had an avacado and bacon sandwich, and standing eating it on the Wall made it taste a million times better! We packed up and set off along the wall. We had all been to the more tourist points of the Wall, were the path has been refurbished and is much safer to walk upon. Out in the wilderness the Wall was left to the force of Mother Nature and it was uneven, wobbly, unsafe and extremely dangerous....what more could you ask for?
We took our time, there were a few slips, a few panics, a lot of fear but we crawled, sat and stumbled down the wall and all made it in one piece...I think! It was a beautiful autumn day and although we were all tired and a little sore, we ventured down the wall not wanting the trip to end. Back on the bus I realised this was one of the view things we had done in China that was really authentic and real. Too many times we have been to temples, parks, and found it ruined in some way by tourism. Out in the mountains, on the part of the Great Wall that many people don't ever get to see, I realised that China is beautiful and old and almost like home....you just have to escape from the tourist traps!