This weekend I got to partake in my programme’s (China Study Abroad) most popular activity: hiking and camping on the Great Wall!
I’ve been twice already and it really is amazing, the sheer length of it, the fact that it’s on a mountain range and that it took so damn long to build, also that it’s one of the few wonders that can be seen from space, pretty impressive indeed…
…yet, let’s just say, this time around I really, really wish we had been smart enough to bring tents! Honestly, it’s August, it’s been raining like crazy and yet we were optimistic enough to think, nah, it will be okay, the rain won’t come to us…after all this is a country that can control the weather on public holidays, surely, the gods will allow us to have a nice camping experience, right??
Well, the trek up on Saturday was pretty cool. We went to a section of the wall that isn’t actually open to the public so you’re not surrounded by millions of tourists and souvenir shops, you get to experience it as it is, just nature, the wall and you! It was a good yet steep trek and don’t get me started on those Heaven Stairs that are taller than you and quite wobbly considering restoration is not actually a priority for the Chinese government, understandable by the sheer length of the thing! We finally get to the watch tower where we’re supposed to make camp, light a fire and sleep, except the Chinese that had been there before us decided to use most of the space for the personal bathroom so that kind of called for a change of plans… Oh, and my iphone was almost trampled to death by one the 13 year old’s in our group that decided to hurl a rock in its direction after finding poo under the rock!!!! I think that was my most traumatizing memory from the whole weekend! haha
We ended up setting up camp next to the tower and proceeded to have the usual camp and bonfire experience, our guide brought up food and we enjoyed our supply of alcohol (a bit too quickly in retrospect) and off we went to sleep…the day had been foggy and the view wasn’t spectacular like my first time visiting the wall but it was cool to be up there and the group was quite fun…
…away I was in the land of dreams when it starts to rain a bit… thinking it will blow over I open my umbrella and try to make myself as small as possible under it…and then… it pours! A lot! And again, no one had tents so we’re all getting drenched while trying to gather our belongings and awake the drunken ones and the young ones to get them into the poo-smelling tower for cover…yeah, it gets better…the tower is so old it leaks and the ground isn’t flat so the water collects on the ground…yep, you can imagine the rest, some actually did find dry bits and managed to sleep, our drunk englishman actually snored, something I sadly envied cause it meant he could sleep!! We build makeshift rock beds and huddled up for warmth with whatever sleeping bags that weren’t drenched and I held my umbrella (cause the roof was leaking) nonstop for 2 hours, I’m still amazed my arm didn’t fall off! By 3am it had stopped raining and I actually managed to sleep for about one hour up on the roof of the tower…yeah, that was fun!
At about 5am everyone was up, exhausted, damp and miserable but just generally happy that it wasn’t raining anymore and we could finally leave the wall and seek warmth! It was also pretty fun having to re-tell the evening’s proceeding to the englishman that couldn’t remember a thing, I guess I should have drunk some baijiu as well, might have kept me warm and blissfully unaware!
All in all, no regrets though, it was an adventure and always a funny story to tell in the pub around a beer and all warmed up ;)