Imagine a fortress that runs for miles – through the forest, through the villages, from the sea on one side to the vast desert on the other; fortified with watch towers, walls, command posts, gates, shrines and temples; steep in some places, a gentle climb in others, contouring through the mountain ranges like a dragon leaving you in awe of what is nothing short of being a phenomenal feat of construction – that is the Great Wall: the largest man-made monument ever to have been built.
Visiting Beijing is incomplete without making a trip to one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Many dynasties have contributed to its construction, though most has come from the Ming Dynasty. The purpose of the wall was to keep enemies from China’s warring states at bay and also act as a toll booth for the famous Silk Route.
There are quite a few sections of the wall to travel to – Badaling, Mutianyu, Juyongguan, Jinshanling, Jiankou etc. Bejing Hikers, a local hiking company organises hikes in the unexplored, scenic parts of the Great Wall. Wherever you go, you can see the wall snaking through the forest behind you and ahead of you. You can’t see the beginning; you can’t see the end – you are just a part of it somewhere in the middle, wondering as you climb, how far does it go, where does it end? Some records say it goes up to 20,000 km.
It is unfathomable that some 2300 years ago with no help of cranes, diggers and all the modern equipment available today, man could build a 20,000km fortress from stone, soil and mortar, lugging it up the mountain and laying it with his bare hands, so sturdy that it has stood the test of time.
It is hard not to be impressed by this phenomenal feat of construction. Some people scribble graffiti on the wall for the world to remember them by in some way, some buy t-shirts that claim they climbed the Great Wall, some will take selfies to show their friends and family. As for me, I secretly felt a sense of triumph and achievement for climbing the Great Wall – vain as it may sound – on one of the clearest, most beautiful days in August.