During my stay in Beijing, I hung out with my two Argentinian travel mates and their local friend who they had met back in Europe.
Extremely friendly, easygoing and like-minded, he showed us bits of student life, excellent food and places.
After mentioning our interest in visiting the Great Wall, he told us he would bring us to a less well known spot near the village Changyucheng, as other parts of the wall can get crowded and partially icy.
And so our team, equipped with excitement, cameras and very little else, jumped into the car to head to Changyucheng.
It takes a couple of hours to reach the village, located about 100km northwest of Beijing. Stepping out of the car was both a relief and a surprise. In fact, the village had a very rustic feel and, at the same time, looked rather well-maintained and preserved; there was even a sign introducing the village and welcoming in new arrivals.
The lack of people in the area, probably explained by it being winter, made visiting the different sites quite interesting and timeless. It was just like being teleported back in time where one can only look but not touch or make a noise.
Following the main road lead to a different looking path, where began the long hike to the top of the mountain.
After several strong curves, we reached a frozen lake. The size and the shape of the valley around the lake allows rocks to produce beautifully surreal sounds when thrown on the icy surface.
After a brief stop, we proceeded to continue the hike through snowy forests, ice sheets and unexpected cement steps.
Due to both luck and miscalculations, we reached the top right at sunset: perfect for enjoying the splendor of the darkening sky but quite awful for descending a partially frozen mountain.
Fully aware of what awaited us on our return journey, we tried to stay on the summit for as long as the cold wind would allowed before wearily heading back down.
What initially had felt like a bad adventure (lots of slipping and some falling), turned out to be a great team-building experience as the whole group had to work together to illuminate the path and bring everyone to the bottom safe and sound.
The dark forest and the stunning view of the night left us feeling humbled and appreciative, a perfect moment to remember.
After meeting the frozen lake once again, we tried our luck at a seemingly closed family restaurant, where they re-opened after 8pm just for us. Despite our hunger and fatigue, it was hard not to be joyful.
When our hunger was more than satiated, we jumped into the car and headed back to Beijing.