What is at the top of your bucket list? My number 1 spot for a long time was to hike the Great Wall of China. It was something that I imagined would be a magical and also physically challenging experience. I can tell you, it did not disappoint. Is this on your list of things to do?
How I Trekked the Great Wall of China
After researching tour groups, flights, visas and prices. I chose to check off this item from by bucket list by combining it with another item on the ever-growing list, which was to raise money for charity.
The British charity, Alzheimer’s Society, had a trekking adventure across the Great Wall of China, whereby everything is pre-planned and booked. All I had to do was pay about £1,000 for my trip and raise a minimum of £2,500, for disease research and community support. (I think this has now increased.)
After months of fundraising and training, I was 28 years old when I sat on a long-haul flight to Beijing via Abu Dhabi, with my fellow fundraisers, a group of people I had never met before. Little did I know the next 10 days would be both heavenly and hellish. If you are thinking of trekking part of the Great Wall of China, train and be as fit as possible.
The First 24 Hours
The flight was fun, there were more than 40 of us sharing fundraising and family stories. The adrenaline was pumping around my body, ready to embark on my trek on the famous wall. But the first 24 hours in Beijing were tough. We were all severely jet lagged, due to the time difference. Our guides kept us busy and didn’t allow us to sleep until night time.
Together, we visited the enormous Tiananmen Square and the glorious Forbidden City. Both were very different to anything I had experienced before. My favourite was the Forbidden City which has chambers protected by defensive walls. After walking through a few gated areas, you get to the emperor’s rooms, which are exquisite. This is the number one attraction in Beijing, so don’t miss it, no matter what.
- For the first few hours, I alternated water with a sugary drink to help get through the sleepiness. If you do this don’t drink more than 3 sugary drinks as they may keep you up longer than you wish.
- Make sure your camera or phone is fully charged as soon as you land because there are so many buildings and attractions to snap. Don’t miss them because you need a plug socket. Outlets are not as common or easy to find, compared to most Western countries.
- If you are particularly tall or pale, you will get to feel like a celebrity. Apparently, many Chinese people haven’t seen a Caucasian person or particularly tall people. I don’t consider myself tall, at 173cm (5 ft 8”) but I experienced a lot of unexpected attention in Tiananmen Square. I had a photo with 3 separate families because they were amazed by my height. While this was a friendly interaction, always be careful, and take note of your possessions at all times as there might be professional pick pockets about.
Trekking the Great Wall
The actual trekking consisted of 6 consecutive days on the wall. Throughout the trip we encountered both ancient and modern parts of the wall. Sometimes, it felt like we were on never-ending steps, going up and down hills. Other days I felt on top of the World. One time, we paused for lunch on top of the defence stations that had look out points. As well as walking on the actual wall, occasionally we walked along the ancient parts, that had due to erosion on the wall had become unsafe.
The highlights of the trip included the town Huangyaguan in the Yanshan Mountain, where we stayed in army barracks. The views were incredible and it was remarkably quiet. The ‘Heaven’s Ladder’ was an unbelievable experience and included a steep climb of over 200 steps. It was a challenging few minutes but afterwards you then hike through the Chinese countryside to reach the next part of the Great Wall.
The 6 days were all very different, the length of time and distance trekked on each day was never the same, as were the conditions. In fact, my favourite day was also the longest. We trekked for 8 hours, and probably walked a marathon. But it included every kind of terrain. We started at 7am, in the cold mountains and had to join a refurbished path by 1pm, it was hot and everyone was down to their last layers. The last 2 km of wall were tough as it was incredibly steep and cold. All the clothing layers discarded during the morning started to be back on again, including gloves!
After the Trek
Following the 6 days walking the wall, we had one full day in the city of Beijing. The tour involved visiting the Dong Wu Silk Museum and the Summer Palace.
The Silk Museum
This museum was really interesting and quite entertaining. The exhibits told the story of how a silk blanket is made. It included every step from the silk warm egg, all the way to the blanket sitting on a shop shelf. The best part was a demonstration that showed the strength of silk compared to other materials. A few of us volunteered and we were all amazed. I didn’t buy anything in the gift shop as it was all super expensive, plus I didn’t have much space in my backpack.
The Summer Palace
The 290-acre Summer Palace and park, which sits next to a large lotus flower covered lake, was spectacular!!! It’s a must to visit. I walked around admiring the temples, bridges and gardens, before taking a boat ride across the lake. It was a really peaceful place even with the large crowds.
All in all it was a great experience that I will never forget. Are you thinking about having an outdoor adventure? If so, find some great ideas with, ‘5 Challenging Adventures to Fall in Love with The Great Outdoors.’ Have you been to the Great wall of China? Share your experiences below, I would love to hear them.