When I was younger, I was in my bedroom flipping through a magazine when I came across this ad for a car. As with most car ads, it talked about adventure and boldness and the willingness to go into the unknown and… all of that stuff totally related to the famed automobile.
On it was a list of ‘things to do before you die.’ Most of the places were those I had never heard of, or included activities like scuba, cliff, or sky diving, which were activities I had never considered.
I decided then to make my own list of ‘100 Things to do Before I die’. I took the majority of items from that car ad and then added some of my own.
The list had been forgotten until I was in Thailand, figuring out what to do with my two week October break.
It felt like I had an epiphany — Mount Everest! I could climb to the base camp and check that off the list… or maybe just see the mountain. So I started researching how to go about doing it and the promptly stopped because it was too darn expensive!
So… why not China?
The Great Wall!
I looked into how I’d be able to get there. The crowded, restored parts of the wall didn’t interest me. I love history and ruins and nature not disrupted by large Chinese crowds.
A Google search led me to a place called China Hiking (though I remember it also being called Dandelion something? IDK!), which offered a variety of hiking trips INCLUDING options to camp ON THE GREAT WALL OF CHINA!
That was an almost immediate yes.
I did some checks on the company and was convinced that it was legit and reputable (thanks Trip Advisor!), then I booked my trip.
This was the trip of a lifetime! CAMPING on the Great Wall in ruins that are hundreds of years old in the quiet of the China countryside. How could I pass something like this up?!
Well… it was cancelled.
I received an email saying that due to it being too dry, we wouldn’t be allowed to camp on the wall.
So I had to settle for a day hike.
I was in a group with a few others and we met at one of the subway stations at 9 in the morning. Into a van we went — my first experience in a road vehicle in China. When I first arrived in Beijing, it surprised me that they drove on the right rather than the left. I had just sort of assumed that everywhere but North America was left-siders. Apparently this is not true!
Soon, the roads and cars turned into hills and countryside. It was October, so everything had that crisp autumn tinge to it. I loved experiencing some cold air again after spending the previous 5 months in in 35+ Celsius weather.
Stepping out of the van, the sun was shining and the sky was a bright blue, which contrasted deeply to the previous days of smog and cloud cover. The universe was kind that day.
We were at the foot of this massive hill and on top, the wall. It was beautiful and I would soon find out why it was effective.
Before we began our hike, we were brought to this small farmhouse at the base of the hill and its wall. There was a dog who was pretty cool. We all sat around this table and ate some super delicious traditional food (the chopstick struggle was real).
Then, we were off on the hike. The biggest challenge was actually climbing up to the wall.
Enemies weren’t kept out because the wall was so large. They were kept out because – holy mother trucker – that’s a steep, tiring climb.
But I found out that some guy somewhere had said something along the lines of ‘a man isn’t a man until he’s climbed the wall’ (mad paraphrasing/making things up), so I’m officially a man I guess.
I started my ascent, quick and energetic. For a long time, I led the crew.
(That’s me in the grey sweater).
Then I hit a ‘wall’ that wasn’t so great and had to chill. My heart was fighting to get out of my chest and I felt like I’d never catch my breath. But I pushed myself to keep going. It was so close!
Finally, I was at the top with rolling hills surrounding us on all sides. I collapsed on top of the ruins and waited for the last few to make it up.
Over the following hours, we climbed and explored and slipped and sat, taking in the views of the stone wall snaking its ways among the China hills.
I brought my digital camera with me, fell, and got sand in it. So the majority of my “pictures” from China ended up being 1-2 second clips. All of the pictures in this post are from the China Hiking Facebook page, which is another great thing about the company: pictures of yourself even if you go alone!
By the time the day was winding now, the sky began to seek cover once more and the sun began to set.
We weaved our way through a somewhat forested area until we got to an open gravel parking lot where the van was waiting for us, ready to take us home.
It was an amazing experience and it felt so cool to actually revisit that list and cross something off of it. Especially something I never thought would actually happen and was more a dream than anything.
If you’re ever in China, look this company up. They’re really fantastic and if I ever end up going back, I’ll definitely try the camping trip again.