Last week I spent a night doing what few can ever say they’ve done: sleeping on the Great Wall of China.
Following a journey from Shanghai to Beijing, one highlight was stopping at the Silk Market for an opportunity to bargain-shop. Haggling for prices was quite the experience, and the money spent was well worth the fun. Another highlight was our visit to the Imperial Palace and Forbidden City. The part about China that really gets me is its age as a country. We were humbled by the sights of buildings that were twice as old as the United States, and signified a culture whose history far preceded even that.
As the afternoon drew to a close, we headed for the wall, about a 3 hours’ drive outside the city of Beijing. We arrived at a small village, enjoyed a delicious dinner, and prepared for the hike and compaing ahead. Hiked up to the wall at about 9 PM, the temperature was already below freezing and only getting colder. We were each geared up in about 15 articles of clothing to keep warm! We hiked vertically past a village, up into the mountains, on trails partly covered in snow. Midway through the journey, our tour guide stopped us and told us to turn off our flashlights and look up. Never have I ever seen so many stars in the night sky. Easily one of the most beautiful sights I had ever seen, a photograph could not have done it justice. It was at this point I knew the biting cold, even the numbness in my feet, was worth the experience.
Following a chilly night (to say the least), we woke up for a sunrise hike. I begrudgingly left my sleeping bag to find a nice dusting of snow had covered all of our gear overnight! Finishing breakfast and taking our first steps of the morning, it appeared we were the only people on the wall as far as we could see. We hiked up the mountains and found ourselves witnessing a beautiful, breathtaking view of the sunrise.
Hiking and camping the Great Wall is one of the coolest things I’ve done in my life. Something I can’t wait to tell my kids about one day. A sacrifice of comfort and sleep for something worth much more, I’m grateful we all stuck through it together. It was a perfect trip and a memory I’ll never forget.
Katie Norton is a sophomore at Chapman University , studying communication and sociology. She’s currently studying abroad on the SEMESTER AT SEA® program and traveled on GCT’s CHN02 trip in February 2012.