In China, once a woman falls pregnant, it seems, her skin suddenly turns to eggshells.
She is told to not exercise, not to eat ice-cream or watermelon, drink only hot water and start sporting an adult onesie outdoors.
After being told so much of what I can’t do, I had just about enough.
So at seven months pregnant, and with my upcoming trip to Beijing, I wasn’t going to let anything stop me –
Not even the Great Wall of China.
Wǒmen zǒu ba! (Let’s go)
After months of preparation lumbering on the gym treadmill, and consulting my doctor, I wake up in a Beijing hotel ready to take on the Wall.
Our tour guide is visibly unhappy about the prospect of taking a pregnant woman up 4000+ stairs, and takes every opportunity to remind us of the option of taking the gondola up.
But we press on, and my husband, I and parents-in-law begin the mammoth task ahead.
So, how hard is it really?
Of course, it depends on the individual and conditions but I found the challenge surprisingly easier than expected.
Yes, I was breathing heavily, and I stopped for a pause on more than one occasion, but it wasn’t the impossible task that I had made it out to be in my mind.
But the climbing doesn’t stop at the stairs.
Once you reach the top, there are parts of the wall that are so steep that I literally used both hands and feet to climb up.
Even though it’s near the end of Winter, all that exertion makes things pretty bloody hot, so make sure to bring lots of water.
Challenges aside, there is nothing more satisfying than reaching the last step and walking along the Great Wall of China – just as Chinese soldiers did thousands of years ago.
The Wall is known for its huge crowds, so upon reaching the top I was shocked to look around and see only a scattering of people – sometimes none at all!
So skip the popular spot of Badaling, and head straight for Mutianyu!
The Great Wall Mutianyu
Best known for its gorgeous forest scenery, The Great Wall-Mutianyu is located about 70km from Beijing’s centre.
Built by the Northern Qi Dynasty about 1400 years ago, this particular section of the wall is unique to the rest – it’s got more watchtowers, had a recent facelift and has A LOT less tourists.
Standing on this part of the wall allows you to truly appreciate the magnitude of manual labour that went into constructing this wonder.
And on some pretty steep terrain, no less!
Indeed, the northwest part of the wall is constructed on a 1000m high mountain ridge.
Mutianyu is great for families, too.
Aside from the stairs, other methods of ascent include a chairlift and cable car.
There is also an adrenline-racing way to get to the bottom – via a single-rider toboggan, which weaves down the mountain along a metal track.
I’ve always been a believer that no goal was ever met without a little sweat.
So I guess we met this goal in spades.