The Chinese have a famous saying, “You aren’t a man until you’ve climbed the Great Wall of China.” Being a strong independent woman, my first thought upon hearing this, was I sure as hell will be hiking up that Great Wall and not just up the wall, but to the tenth watch tower. Whatever it takes.
So that was how the idea to hike up to the tenth tower of the Great Wall was born.
Planning our trip
My room mate and I had planned our hike out the night before in a Beijing hotel room. Excited as hell, we tried to get an early night because of course, this was China and we had to leave pretty early to try and figure out how to get to Badaling without being able to read the signs and speak the language. We switched our VPN’s on and hopped over the Great Chinese Firewall as fast as we could. Screenshots, digital notes and tons of webpages later, we finally had a plan of action in place.
Leave by 8 am and head to Beijing North Railway Station. Find the ticket office, then buy the train tickets. Catch the 9.06 am train out to Badaling… easy!
Well, sure, it always sounds easy the night before…
All night I wondered if I would be able to make that hike to the 10th tower. I had been raving about it to my roommate ever since I heard that crazy Chinese saying. Truth be told I wasn’t as fit as I used to be, but being a Gemini meant that my ideas were sometimes (no… most of the time…) bigger than my abilities. But I was determined. I was going to do this! Not to prove I was a man but to prove I was a wo-man.
I may not have been physically ready but I was mentally there!
The start of the adventure
The next morning, I was up and ready to go at 7 am. We grabbed some Starbucks and found our way to the train station. From our online research through endless forums and blogs, we knew there was a little window outside the train station selling tickets to Badaling. Easily enough, we found that window. The only thing was… that window was closed.
You’ve got to be kidding me. Today of all days, that window is closed? So basically, we travelled across the whole of China from the Guangdong Province to Beijing to hike the to tenth tower of the Great Wall and the window to buy tickets is closed?!
That was pretty much the conversation I had with my poor roommate.
It was the other Gemini in me coming out. We walked around looking for some form of help. Eventually a nice old man pointed us in the direction of another ticket office inside the train station. Off we went and sue enough, we had bought two train tickets to Badaling!
We checked the time and realised we has missed the 9.06 am train. The next one would leave at 11.06 am. We had nothing to do besides wait… and bond.
My second Gemini was still out and I was in a mood. We got some breakfast and coffee and soon enough, my mood changed. Before long we had boarded the train and was off to Badaling!
At approximately 12.13 pm we had arrived. The train stopped a few hundred meters away from the actual entrance to the Badaling area meaning our hike had begun long before we even knew it.
After exploring the base of shops, we purchased our entrance tickets and were off.
It was time to make that all famous decision – should we climb the north or south side of the Great Wall? After much deliberation, we had chosen. North it was and away we went.
There’s an underlying majestic nature that surrounds the Great Wall as you hike along.
The entirety of it overwhelmed me a little as I walked along the giant granite stones knowing that this section of the wall was originally built in 1505 and here I was, standing on it at this very moment… touching it and finally hiking it.
The initial hike up to the first tower was treacherous. Not only was it steep and my muscles had already begun to ache but I was also out of breath. There were so… many… people. Turns out, the odds of you losing your balance while trying to avoid bumping into someone was greater than actually misplacing your footing on the wall.
We powered on to the second tower… third tower and fourth.
Stumbling through each watch tower, it’s as if history was still alive inside dark passageways.
As the stones crumbled under my feet and dust rose up around me, it was haunting to know that these were the sites where cannons were shot and fires were lit in an attempt to warn against approaching enemies.
Despite being restored in 1957 and one of the few sections with handrails attached for hikers, it still is a treacherous venture. Steep and slippery. It’s easy to fall… and me being me, I did. Trip. Slip and landed straight on my behind, all while recording. After a good old laugh, we were off.
We continued on… to the Fifth Tower.
Seventh Tower… The steps were getting steeper. The wind heavier. The valleys deeper.
My heart… stronger.
The views around us were breathtakingly beautiful.
As far as the eye could see there were pieces of a narrow dusty wall winding its way into the distance and connected by beacons and towers running from hill top to hill top.
We had made it to the cable car area. Tired, dusty, cold and sweaty. We had two choices – take the cable car down or keep going.
We kept going.
The wall had quietened along the way as it became more difficult to reach the towers. Many hikers had taken the cable car down. There were about three people that I could see clambering off in the distance. They didn’t give up.
Neither did we.
Almost there. In the distance, we could see the tenth tower. It was a pretty steep incline, sliding back, grabbing the side rails in an attempt to pull ourselves up but we persevered and soon we had reached the tenth tower of the north side of the Great Wall of China.
We had done it.
Hours later and despite slipping up and sliding down we had reached the tenth tower of the Great Wall at Badaling. We were officially classified as real men in China.
I however, was a real woman in my head and heart.
Never in a million years did I think that one day, I would find myself wandering through Asia, let alone in China. I never thought the Great Wall would go on my bucket list nor would I spend a whole day out of my life testing my mental strength by hiking to the Tenth Tower of one of the worlds greatest wonders.
But I did. Here I was.
A twenty eight year old woman that had climbed to the tenth tower of the North side of the Great Wall of China.