According to our Lonely Planet guidebook, after traversing the Great Wall we had two choices for returning to the parking area where we’d catch a ride back to Dandong. We could either follow the river on a narrow dirt path or choose a hiking trail along the cliff face. The couple we were travelling with expressed a preference for the easier riverside trail but I was secretly delighted when we couldn’t locate it and had to set off along the more challenging route instead! We shared it with many other people and didn’t actually see anyone below us so I’m assuming that the easier path isn’t there anymore. Instead, we looked down on the fence that ran along our side of the river and separated us from North Korea.
Even though I’ve pretty much managed to overcome my lifelong fear of heights, as we went along I was very thankful for the sturdy metal fence that provided both protection from falling and a handrail when it was needed. In places, the hike was an easy one but we also scrambled up, down and over some rocky faces that were quite challenging. Then, as we neared the end of the path, we came upon a suspension bridge! In the past, that would have finished me off but instead I was able to enjoy it and even provide encouragement for one of our companions whose fear was written all over his face.
Shortly before we reached the end of our journey, we reached the spot known as Yibukua or ‘one step across’, a particularly narrow part of the river between the two countries. Perhaps the water is high at this time of year because it would have taken more than one giant step to cross it but regardless, the barbed wire fence made it impossible for anyone foolish enough to try. Signs also made it very clear that we shouldn’t attempt to cross and if that wasn’t enough deterrent, the gun-toting North Korean soldiers patrolling in the distance definitely would be.
At no point did we feel that we were in any danger though. Chinese tourists do visit North Korea and we probably could too but I doubt that we ever will. I do feel like I should have a stamp on my passport that says that I was one step away though!