My mum turned 44 on August 8th and you can say that her children (read: there are 6 of us hahahaha) has done pretty much everything on her previous birthdays- surprises, spa retreats you name it. But the one thing we never did was fly her abroad. So this year, we thought… why not? My sister and I split her ticket fare and 5 days later, I welcomed her at the Shanghai Pu Dong Airport.
I can tolerate crowded places, but not the too crowded ones. I’ll literally leave, just like I did on our visit to the pinnacle tourist site of Beijing: the Forbidden City area. We visited on a Monday and I think we were relatively early, but even so we had to queue for sooo long (under the hot sun) to get in. And inside, it was too packed to the point where everyone was just sandwiched between each other- even the sceneries were blocked by people’s figures! After a good few minutes experiencing this human traffic jam, we both
made fought our way out.
I didn’t want the ‘bail out’ Forbidden City story to happen twice, so I made sure the section of the Great Wall my mum and I would hike will be less touristy- somewhere safe (for a 40+ year old mum to climb :p ) yet has the least amount of human possible!
After researching on the internet, I narrowed down my top two choices: JinShangLing or HuangHuaCheng. By the way, there are actually a lot of places you can start your Great Wall hike from, and it would take a person 18 months to walk the whole walk! The latter fact blew my mind so much because I never thought the Great Wall was that long. Intrigued, I kept digging. I soon learned that no two sections of the Great Wall are the same, and its admission fee differs with location too. For example, Mutianyu is fully refurbished (hence a more expensive entrance ticket) while JianKou’s Walls is as it was in ancient times. So you really have to know your purpose and the people you will be hiking with before you choose your location. If you are with family, obviously Mutianyu or Badaling should be your top choices as there are many facilities. For those who wish to take the road less traveled by, you could even go as far as hiking the Inner Mongolian Great Wall section! Note that Inner Mongolia is actually a province in northern China, but there is a country called Mongolia on its own just at China’s border! Cool right? I never knew those stuffs too!!! The history of the Wall itself was also very meaningful, and I appreciate how it was built and continued throughout a few Dynasties.
Since JinShangLing was undergoing renovation, I ended up choosing HuangHuaCheng. Initially I wasn’t too satisfied with my decision because so little of this part was shared on the internet. I didn’t know what to expect, and how identical the view was going to be with what I saw on Google Images . But once my mum & I got there… We were blown away! The only downside (apart from the toilet haha) was that the boat ride said to be on this part of the Great Wall was actually at the Shui section. We could’ve walked towards Shui Section from HuangHuaCheng but the boat service was shut down that day anyways due to a rain forecast.
It took us 2++ hours to get to the HuangHuaCheng Section, and the last few miles mostly consisted of endless ascend up twirling uphill roads. Upon arrival, we witnessed this beautiful dam, a lake and a broken set of the Wall.
Once we crossed the lake we had to hike up a mountain, go up a ladder and squeeze through a tower window before we reached the actual grounds of the Wall! Before we actually start making our way up, I took a short hike to a tower peak at the dead end. Take a look at photo 3 to fully comprehend what I am about to share. Although you can see a trail of Great Wall on the hill behind the tower, you can’t actually go any further that. Beyond that tower is the lake! The opposite exit of that tower, and the ‘discontinued’ part of the Wall is depicted by photo 1. All my life I thought the Great was a stretch of continuous bricks, but turns out, there are broken parts! And I can now say that I have witnessed this!!!
After the dead end tower exploration, I made my way back down. My mum and I then started our hike. The route to the end of HuangHuaCheng Great Wall takes about an hour depending on your pace. It’s actually relatively short, compared to the other sections, and once you’ve reached the end you’d need to turn back. I guess the ‘turning back’ and really steep steps demotivated my mum. 20 minutes after our climb, she was like ‘you go ahead, I will wait here’. I begged her to come with me but her legs were not up for it. Disappointed (and a little scared), I began my solo hike.
The wall was very empty. I think I only came across 10 people on the wall throughout my climb, excluding a couple and their team taking a wedding photo. A wedding photo… on the Great Wall?! Romantic but I don’t think it was particularly practical on this part of the Wall. Remember the ladder? Hahahaha.
On a more serious note, my time alone felt very relaxing but at the same time, I was also paranoid that some creature might just pop up to kidnap me. Especially when I went through those spooky towers! Luckily, I met 2 Chinese guys who were more than happy to recruit me into their expedition. I ended up reaching the end of the peak (which is just a flat ground) with them.
Overall, the climb was bearable. I don’t think you’d need to train for the hike but it may be a bit unsuitable for kids or adults. The wall was not restored at all, and some parts are super steep! Twice I was on all fours trying to go uphill. Some of its bricks are also broken, and there are quite a few insects.
Once at the top i.e. the flat ground of a tower, we couldn’t go further. Well we could but it’d be a hike downward but no way up. The pathway up was covered in trees… like actual trees! I was kind of upset by this because I am sure over time, the Walls would completely be engulfed by greens. And soon… this HuangHuaCheng part will perhaps no longer exist for my grandchildren to see! However, I later found out that this was a deliberate act to stop the Walls from collapsing. So let’s just pray that those trees grow really really slowly alright?
And while I was at the top, I took out my book and wrote this. I really wanted to remember that moment of bliss, and breeze forever.
After a few minutes on the ‘peak’, I bid farewell to the 2 strangers I went up with and slowly descended back down to my mum on my own. The whole journey was just one of a kind, and perhaps this was because most of the time I only had my own self. I never truly enjoyed my own silence or company until that day. In fact, I’d always avoid being on my own! So thank you Great Wall for easing that solo journey for me. I don’t how you did it but I guess that’s why you are named the Great Wall after all this time! <3
ps: Don’t miss out on my Great Wall Vlog here. It’s fun, I promise :p