Our last full day in China exceeded our expectations, entailing yummy food and cultural exchanges with locals. We started off the morning early with a 6:30 wake up call and hit the road at 8:00. After about a 1.5 hour drive, we arrived at a small bed and breakfast inn in the village of Hexi outside of Beijing, from where you could actually see the Great Wall. We were then taught by the locals living there how to make traditional dumplings, including rolling out the “skin” of the dumpling into circular shapes and then artfully enclosing the filling. Everyone had a chance to try the different steps- some people mastered rolling the dough into circles, while others liked making creases on the dumplings. When we ran out of dumpling filling, some of us even managed to create buns, 包子, out of the remaining dough.
After mastering the dumpling art, we sat down for a delicious lunch, including the dumplings we made. Other dishes included tomatoes with sugar, green beans and pepper, rice, fried chicken, broccoli, and fruit for dessert. Surely the home-style cooking made this lunch one of the best meals we’ve had.
After a filling lunch, we traveled another 40 minutes to a non-touristy area, Jinshanling (金山岭）from where we hiked up to the Great Wall. After a grueling, sweaty 25 minutes of majority uphill stairs (comparable to a stairmaster workout), we ended up on the Wall. The view was most certainly worth the climb. After some group pictures, we proceeded for another 2 hour hike along the Wall.
Contrary to our previous belief, the part of the Wall we visited appeared not to be renovated, and we could all agree the trek was much harder than expected. Some of the stairs were so steep and narrow that we would need the support of the walls to climb up and down them, or we would need to step sideways. At downhill parts, we were tempted to run, but we were advised against it- rather, we were encouraged to squat-walk to maintain balance.
Adverse weather conditions did not stop us – heavy wind and light rain was actually a nice surprise for all of us, since so many of of the days had been 90+ degrees. Taking many pit stops during the hike made this difficult hike more easy for everyone, and everyone was glad to reenergize and eat a nice BBQ dinner at the base of the wall. We had many raw vegetables as well as chicken, hot dogs, and lamb. We even made some s’mores and, for lack of graham cracks, we made use of some spare Oreos as a replacement. We then made the two hour trip home. The wall was definitely a highlight for me and for many of us, and we were all exhausted by the end of this incredible day.