Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Sunrise over the Great Wall

The alarm on my iPhone finally rang at 5:30 am as set. Not that I was awaken by it. In fact, I have slept much the entire night. By the time, I finished shooting some night photography of the wall, it was already almost 3 am. The temperature by then was freezing and my fingers have already gone numb. The wind had picked up significantly and howling. Although we were camping inside the watch tower, our tents were still shaking quite a fair bit, blown by the wind that did not seemed to stop. Coupled with the fact that the ground was hard and my over sensitivity to every single noise that went on outside my tent through the night, each conjuring images of some ancient souls, going about their normal lives, keeping vigil on the watch tower centuries ago, it was rather hard to fall asleep.

As I crawled out from my tent, I could see through the broken openings of the watch tower that the sun was already preparing to make her grand entrance. There were traces of dull red and orange tinge on the horizon beyond the layers of grey and blueish mountains.

I popped a stick of chewing gum into my mouth, picked up my camera and tripod and took a walk on my wall. I checked the compass application on my iPhone to confirm the direction of which the sun was going to make her entrance, took note of it and proceeded to scan the horizon to savor and absorb the feel, the smell and the atmosphere of a fresh new morning on the Great Wall of China. I have always wondered what it would be like to wake up on the Great Wall and here, I was, standing on the wall itself, alone, serene, quiet and tranquil, with my eyes feasting upon the magnificent landscape before me.

As the sun prepares her grand entrance, the skies on the horizon appeared in a dull tinge of red, orange and turquoise, over the layers and layers of grey and blueish colored mountains.

I could still see the full moon on one side of the skies, slowly but surely making her graceful retreat, while on the complete opposite direction, the tinge of red, orange and yellow over the horizon has grown brighter and brighter as minutes ticked by.

On the opposite side of the skies, I could still see the bright full moon, slowly making her retreat.

Suddenly, I remembered that I had to wake up Yuki, my hiking partner for the sunrise. I ran back to the watch tower and called her. Apparently, she did not have much sleep either which was of no surprise.

Together, we walked up to the nearest and highest watch tower and scouted for the best position to wait for the grand entry of the sun.

Getting ready for the sun to rise beyond the horizon, behind the watch tower some distance away.

Have anyone told you that waiting for the sun to rise beyond the horizon can be quite agonizing yet exhilarating and exciting at times. You just sit there, eyes peeled towards the horizon, waiting in anticipation and time slows down. Every minute seems like eternity and colors on the horizon does not seemed to change much except a littler, yes, just a little brighter.

But when she arrives, the moment is nothing short of spectacular. Suddenly, after apparently almost hours of anticipating, the horizon seems to brighten quite significantly. And then, her rays of light appeared beyond the hills and behind the silhouette of the wall and the watch tower in the distance. 

Suddenly, the skies lightened up and the intensity grew. The SUN was making her grand entrance.

Such was the feel that morning. My heart rate increased just as intense as my excitement. The skies lightened up. Time seemed to flip on to the reverse at this juncture. Minutes which seemed like hours moments ago, now seemed like seconds because, at every tick of the second hand of the clock, the skies made a dramatic change in colour, hue, brightness, contrast and intensity.

The sun finally emerged from behind the hills and the watch tower and the Great Wall.

Shooting right into the SUN.....

My finger was busy clicking away, checking the picture taken on the LCD screen and the histogram, making slight adjustments to the camera settings and clicked again. Just as fast she arrives, suddenly, there I was, looking at the now, bright and fresh new morning of another great day. I could just think of one word, (not that I have a powerful grip of the rich English vocabulary) - BREATHTAKING!

I glanced at my watch and it was closed to 7 am. I packed up my tripod, took a few more shots around the watch tower and began making my way back to our camp site. By the time, we got there, to my relief, someone from the tour agency had already hiked up earlier while we were away, and help to pack up our tents and carried them down.

Yuki, my hiking partner, grabbing a few last shots before making our way down from our camp site....

Taking my own shadow ...

We quickly packed up and made our long hike down the way we came from the previous night. The scene was definitely a complete contrast of what we saw the night before, where everything was covered in darkness. I could see the path down, the waist high scrubs we had to push through last night and the next hill, we had to climb before reaching our transport, already there waiting for us. Although, both of us had not had much sleep the night before, our spirits were high and refreshed as we made our hike down.

As we negotiated our way down, only then did we realized how high up and how far we have come the night before. As I have mentioned in our previous post, it was a blessing in disguise that we did not really see or know where we were climbing and hence, we just went on and on. If we have known how high up the camping site was, given the fact that we were already so tired after the 5 hours hike we had earlier and with the volume of camping gear we have to carry ourselves, I must admit that it would have been a much tougher quest.

By 8:30 am, we were already making our way for our breakfast and getting ready for our next hike for the day, the wild and crumbled walls at a section known as the CROUCHING TIGER.


  1. Breathtaking pictures you have there. It's just so lovely!

  2. Love the lighting! The sunrise looks amazing!

  3. Hi! I found your blog through

    I just wanted to comment on how lovely these mountain photos are. I like the blue haze of the mountains in the morning.
    My photography is just starting out. I too enjoy landscape photography. Anyway, keep on shooting! - Michelle @

  4. Did you know you can create short links with AdFly and get money for every visitor to your shortened urls.