Ever since I have been in primary school, there were certain things I wanted to see. Things like the great pyramids of Egypt, lava flowing from a volcano, to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar (foundation of Sikhism) and many more. One of the sights on my list was the Great Wall of China. So when I embarked on this journey to China, we found a tour company that not only takes you to the Great Wall (Jiankou Great Wall), but that you can also sleep in tents on an even more remote part of the Great Wall. Now how unique is that! When we booked the entire tour, this became the jewel in the crown. I have to admit, we did not know what to expect.
As the day approached, we felt anticipation. We knew it would be cold and we packed for this. We also knew that the tour company supplied tents, sleeping bags, a foam mattress, and a BBQ on the wall. Before all this, we ventured to the Great Wall where anyone can go. This is not the most touristy spot, but still there were tourists. We walked up an unbelievable amount of stairs. Shades of the Grouse Grind came to me. We finally made it to the top and it was spectacular. We were standing on one of the man-made wonders of the world. Gord and I walked around exploring the steps, the ramparts and the view. The wall snakes along the top of the mountains and you are amazed at the human feat that this took.
Following this, we wound up diving for about 2-3 hours to the remote part of the Great Wall. We got to a small group of houses and you know it is remote because there is a sign saying that tourists are not permitted in this area without a guide. Our guide had everything all set…and it was a large backpack. We drove to a remote place and started trekking along a 1 km walk up a steep pathway. Our guide had no problem maneuvering around and hiking up the path. We each carried a smaller pack. Finally we got to a small ladder and had to walk along a small narrow path with a shear drop. You gingerly walk it and get to our campsite.
Once there, the guide set up our two tents (Gord and I in one tent and our tour guide in the other). This part of the wall has intact sections but also is in ruins between certain parts. We gazed out from our vantage point and the view was breathtaking. It was already a bit chilly up there, but as the sun set, it got colder and colder. By 7:30pm, our tour guide said he was too cold and he zipped himself into his tent and sleeping bag. After 10 minutes, he was fast asleep. That left Gord and I and we sat and took in the calm peaceful surroundings. You could make out shapes and shadows around us.
I can’t say that I had a good sleep up there. It was rather uncomfortable and cold. At morning, I got up before sunset and sat outside to admire the view. You could see the shadows start to get colour now and a haze had enveloped the surroundings as the sun started to show from the horizon and you could start to feel its warmth. We realized the significance of our night as we reflected on the history that surrounded us. Who walked this in the past and lived here? How remote this place was and how harsh the conditions were. We were in the midst of history. This is something I will not forget so soon…or ever. We spent a night on the Great Wall and not a lot of people can say that they have done that.