Someone shook me from my short slumber, trying to tell me something:

“Let’s go watch the sunrise on the Wall”.

I rubbed my eyes with the backs of my hands, digesting the proposed plan. I looked at the clock; it was 3.45am.

“Ok. Yeh, absolutely”.

After a much needed caffeine and sugar boost, we set off out of the hostel and through the dusty streets of Gubeikou. Jumpers zipped all the way up and headlamps alight, we began stumbling up the hundreds of steps in the murky darkness to reach the start of our destination- the Great Wall of China …

Gubeikou, as seen from the wall

Gubeikou, as seen from the wall

We had reached the small riverside town of Gubeikou by a series of buses, only 6 hours from Beijing, and we had found it wonderfully deserted. It was the Great Wall of our dreams: unreconstructed, crumbling walls; rolling, vibrant green hills meeting misty blue sky in the distance; connected fortifications visible as far as the eye could see and to top it all off, a moody, cloud-ridden sunset. We hadn’t walked far that day but had met no one else, and once we had walked at least a mile we could see no infrastructure. It wasn’t hard to imagine the Great Wall as it had once been all those years ago…

That moody sunset

That moody sunset

The sun setting behind the crouching tiger hill

The sun setting behind the crouching tiger hill

As much to keep warm as to reach the bastion in time for the suns ascent after that early wake up call, we began to run. The adrenaline pumped through us as we ran blindly, the Wall pitching us up and down and round endless corners, feeling like we were in some kind of action packed period drama set on the Great Wall of China. With aggressive shrubbery neighbouring every inch of the barricade, it wouldn’t have been a fun fall.

Half an hour or so passed this way until we reached one of the higher bastions deemed suitable to watch a sunrise from. We climbed through the collapsing building and up onto the roof, moving rocks around to make ourselves comfortable and then we waited. The light came in slowly. It had been a clear night but the clouds had rolled in in the early hours, obscuring any potential for a fiery sunrise. Instead the colours of the landscape very gradually became infused with colour, from black, to grey, to blue, and finally to green. It was a sunrise of subtlety, never overwhelming the majesty of the Wall. The Wall we could see reaching far off into the horizon, towards the rising sun.

As we made our way back to catch a few more hours sleep, a bright orange sun poked its way through the mist as if to promise us that the day ahead, another day of walking and of Walls, was going to be a good one.

In Gubeikou, on the majestic Great Wall of China, every day promises to be a good one.

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