One of the best day's I've had in China so far! I love mountains.
I woke this morning with a great deal of excitement and anticipation, for today was the day we planned to walk the Great Wall of China!
Countless people had tried to persuade us into taking guided tours to visit the wall, which all sounded pretty damn expensive to us poor travellers. Fortunately we were sharing a dorm with an American girl (who by the way works as Snow White in the productions of Disney on Ice) and she wasn't willing to pay the extortionate prices for tours either. She had decided to find her own way to the wall, which ended up costing a third of the tour price and with the bonus of having complete freedom to explore wherever she wanted, for however long too. We noted down the route, which involved a train, a bus and a short walk, and headed off for the Badaling section of the Great Wall.
We couldn't have had a better day for it. Gleaming sunshine, and although the wind was still freezing cold, it soon became welcome as we quickly worked up a sweat, trekking the thousands of steps and steep slopes that wind their way across the mountainous countryside.
We climbed to the highest section of the wall along with a large number of other tourists, taking in the stunning scenery and awe inspiring views along the way. Once we reached the highest point we stopped for a short period to catch our breath. The next section of the wall was pretty much clear of tourists completely. No doubt they were put off by the very steep decent which lovingly combined with several steep inclines straight after. I wasn't deterred though. I saw a tower off in the distance that I wanted to get to, and that was now my goal. Once I'd made it there I knew I would have achieved something special. Very few of the drones upon drones of tourists walking the wall were willing enough (or stupid enough for that matter) to tackle the next section. I was.
I told Steph of my idea, and as expected she wasn't too impressed. I offered to go on ahead and meet her on the way back, saving her the majority of the journey, but if any of you know my girlfriend well, you'll know she's a very determined girl. When she puts her mind to something she will do it.
I went on ahead, and eventually reached the tower, which actually turned out to be the end of that section of wall, we could go no further even if we wanted to. The going was tough, and so I was doubly amazed as after a short while I saw Steph powering along, not far from where I was. I could see she had set her mind on reaching the tower to, and nothing was going to stand in her way! We exchanged huge, warming smiles as she approached. While we were both exhausted, we were also simply overwhelmed with joy and adrenaline of what we'd just done. As we stood there, absorbing the breathtaking views the silence was deafening.
Now came the hard part (laugh out loud) we had a daunting climb back to the highest point, then we had to descend back to the entrance. It was tough going. We paused occasionally to catch our breath, but for the most part we carried on, taking it step by step. Once we'd finally reached the top it was a welcome sight. Yet another achievement! Still not content with our efforts we decided to head up the other side of the wall after we had returned back to the entrance. This was yet another daunting climb, but we had our rhythm now. No tourists ventured that way for some reason, so the climb was much more peaceful and, for me anyway, far more enjoyable.
The views from the second highpoint were worth all the effort. I felt exhilarated, like I was on top of the world. I remember thinking there was no other place I'd rather be right then, as we both stood there watching the sun slowly fall from the sky.
This was definitely a highlight of my trip and I personally loved every second.