Visiting the Great Wall

I decided to go to China one afternoon in mid-February. I was bored and was browsing the Facebook page set up for my university’s study abroad program. I figured that all of the deadlines for summer programs had already passed, but I was procrastinating homework and wanted to see what was offered. Low and behold, there was one lone program that had an upcoming deadline: four weeks in China…

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I honestly never really had a desire to go to China beyond wanting to see the Great Wall. Once I found out that this trip was only $2,000, and there was an excursion to the Great Wall, I was sold. I filled out the application that day and not even two weeks later, I was accepted. Less than four months after that, I was on a 14-hour flight from Detroit to Beijing.

We went to the Great Wall during our first full day in China. We barely had time to adjust to the 13-hour time difference, before we found ourselves in a van heading towards the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China. I honestly could not imagine a better start to my trip.

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We had to make our way up a hill full of souvenirs and shops with people constantly stopping us and asking us to buy from them. When we finally made it up the hill, we were greeted by one of many ornate Chinese entrance gates that we would see during our four weeks.

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From there we made our way to the cable car station. The cable car ride up to the wall was only a few minutes long, but felt like an eternity. Everyone in my car had an excited nervous feeling. We couldn’t believe we were finally going to get to see something that we had only seen in pictures. It felt like a dream. Well maybe not for my Chinese instructor, who had lived in China for most of her life.

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When we finally got to the wall, I was surprised by how steep it was. I was picturing a mainly flat walking path with a few hills. I was not expecting a strenuous uphill hike that left my legs sore for days.

We only had an hour and a half to spend at the Great Wall, so myself and one of the other girls in our group made it our mission to hike to the highest hill that we could see. As you can probably tell from the photo below, it was quite a daunting task.

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I had to stop several times along the way, and a couple of times I was worried I wouldn’t be able to make it within the time allotted. However I knew that the likelihood of returning to the Great Wall was slim to none, so I kept going until I made it to the top. What greeted me at the top of this intimidating hill was a Chinese woman selling overpriced warm beer, an amazing view of the Chinese hills, and a flag of the People’s Republic of China.

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The climb back down was a blur, mainly because we had to rush to make sure we weren’t holding up the other members of our group. I was beyond thankful for the cable car ride back down and a chance to rest my exhausted legs.

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If you had told me 18 months ago that I would have walked on the Great Wall of China at nineteen years old, I would have called you crazy. I’m so glad that I stumbled across this once in a lifetime trip that February afternoon. Sometimes procrastination really does pay off.

Safe travels! 🙂

-Emily

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