Friday, December 6, 2013

The Great Wall Hike (Part Three)

We picked up our pace as the sun began to set at the horizon. Our legs were growing weary and heavier with every step we take. Some of the paths were rather narrow, steep and slippery due to the loose gravels. We have been walking, climbing, hiking, crawling (yes at certain stages because the climb was a little too steep) for over 3.5 hours by now.

"Andy! How much further?" I shouted.

"Over two more hills!" he replied

"WHAT?? Two more hills?" I puffed.

"Yes. You guys better hurried up. Otherwise, we would have to hike in the dark." he replied.

Now, that would be the last thing I wanted to do. We summoned whatever strength we still manage to muster and push our butts forward. We could see the section of the wall at Jingshanling some distance away as we hiked past some local villages and some empty parcels of land, littered with dried corn plants, which would very likely be the last crop to be harvested before this year's winter.

An empty corn field that we walked past on the way to Jingshanling. You can see the wall and watch towers some distance away and although they seemed near, they are still a good 1.5 hours hike away.

The sun was setting fast as daylight faded. Soon, it will be winter where the sun will set by 4:30 p.m. I was a little disappointed, with the thoughts that we would miss photographing the sunset over the Great Wall, something that I have also been thinking of doing when I first visited Jingshanling late last year. We were still one hill away and although we could see the wall from here, we still have to negotiate our way down from the hill where we were and climb the next one before we could reach the nearest watch tower.

The sun was setting behind us as we picked up our pace, racing to reach the nearest watch tower at Jingshanling.

When I took the picture above, I realized that there was a high possibility that we would miss the sun set on the wall. I looked back, into the sun and there she was, the sun setting behind the wall. Yes, I was NOT on the wall but what I really wanted was to see the sun setting over the wall. It does not matter whether I was on the wall or not. I yelled out to Yuki to get her to turn around.

The sun setting at Jingshanling...

The valleys and hills at Jingshanling, basked in the golden sunlight of the setting sun ...

We had some pretty decent pictures of the sunset after all. It was indeed an amazing experience, watching the sun slowly setting behind the wall, even better where we were, away from the crowd of other photographers at Jingshanling. There were only us on that remote hill top and we had the entire sun set as if to ourselves.

A section of the wall and a watch tower some distance away at Jingshanling as the sun sets over the horizon beyond the mountains.....

By the time, we reached the nearest watch tower at the section of Jingshanling, the sun has set but we were hopeful that we could still catch a glimpse of it. The last steps climbing up that watch tower were agonizing for me at least. However, Yuki who has been panting and puffing for quite a while now, suddenly sprinted like a deer up the watch tower, eager to catch a glimpse of setting sun. The burst of energy and the sheer will of her determination to see what she has come to see was simply amazing. By the time I caught up with her on the wall, she was already busy clicking away with her brand new Nikkor 14-28mm wide angle lens, that she has bought just for the trip.

I set up my tripod because the skies were too dark now to get any good shots without the stability I needed. There were so many other photographers on the wall, some with equipment and lens that I can only dream for a life time. I trained my humble Nikkor 18-105mm kit lens towards what I initially thought was the sun. Then it dawned on me that we were not looking at the sun setting.... we were looking at the full moon rising from the horizon!

The full moon rising over the horizon and over the great wall that stretches toward the section at Simatai....

What more could I ask for. I came to the Great Wall of China, expecting to see the sun set and the sun rise the following morning. And the heavens gave me a bonus, the chance to see the arrival of the full moon. I might not have the best gear or lens required to capture the true beauty of the moon in all her clarity but for now, the experience and the memory that stays engraved in my mind and heart will last me this entire life time.

One parting shot before we hike down the wall at Jingshanling for our dinner, a bath and get ready for our hike to our camping site at Gubeikou ...

The full moon rising over the mountains and the great wall. At a distance, on the upper right, you can see a recently rebuilt section at Simatai all lighted up. This section was still closed to the public when we did the hike, scheduled to be reopened soon ...

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