I just returned from a breathtaking backwoods hike of the Great Wall.
This place is VERY far from Beijing. I had to take the subway; then a commuter bus; then a driver took me another half hour. It's on a farm right in the mountains. I paid a guide to take me on a three-hour hike of the wall. He's the one who took the photos of me. He is the son of the owner of the farm.
It's called www.GreatWallFresh.com and a friend told me about it but he hasn't come here yet. It's really cool!! And NO TOURISTS AT ALL! I am really truly in the middle of nowhere! And I love it!
The hike was AMAZING. All the tourists are mobbing the five or six rebuilt parts of the wall near Beijing. This expanse of the wall here is much farther away, but absolutely untouched since 500AD apparently. From the Ming Dynasty. But when was the Ming Dynasty? I thought from the 1200s... Not sure.
Anyway, it is so historical. So genuine. So charming. It makes me feel like I have stepped back hundreds of years. Thousands of years. Even though it wa raining and totally foggy, I loved it. In fact, the rain and the cold are what made it so fun! And I took a small piece with me. A small jagged piece of stone that was genuinely a part of the wall. What a cool souvenir.
Right now, I'm in my room. Three beds. And drafty windows. No heat. And it's cold. And damp. Like a one-star hostel. And yet: I LOVE IT. There is a group of foreigners in the adjacent room--the farm is laid out like a courtyard with the 'farm' in the center and the house surrounding the farm/garden on four side. VERY small. Charming. Lovely. And I'm by myself, but I don't feel alone. I hear the ten or so foreigners all laughing together and... I don't care! I am so content here by myself, in my long underwear, eating the huge among of home cooked dishes the mother of the house made for me. Rice, warm tea, eggplant, fried eggs, Chinese vegetables, raw almonds, all so yummy!!! And with the cold room; the drafty windows that let the sound of the rain come through loud and clear, and the general awesomeness of the place, I feel great. Like I'm camping in the Chinese mountains. I can't believe I am literally sleeping at the base of the Great Wall of China! This is amazing!
As for tomorrow? I'm waking up at 4am and flying to Ulan Batuur in Mongolia. It is already cold here in Beijing; it's gonna be FREEZING in Mongolia!! It is 8pm now. I am going to jump into bed with the many many blanket they gave me and try to get to sleep since I have such an early wakeup.
And the adventure continues! So hard to believe I was in Shanghai this morning in my apartment. Now I am going to sleep with the Great Wall outside my window. Truly truly amazing!