Traversing some of the most challenging sections along one of mankind’s greatest architectural achievements, the Great Wall of China was a truly magical experience.
Stepping out across the peaceful semi-ruin sections of the Great Wall was akin to walking in the footsteps of history. As we walked along the wild and unrestored parts of the wall, you felt a real sense of remoteness, speculating how this amazing feat of engineering was constructed without modern machinery over 2,000 years ago.
The first thing you notice on the wall, apart from the stunning vistas were the steps. You go up steps on the approach and when you get to the top there are more steps and when you get to the top of those steps, there are even more steps. With the route spread before you it’s all steps! Steps up the hill, towards the first watch tower, then steps down the hill and up again towards the next. Through a series of vast undulating stretches of the wall from one watch tower to the next, it is completely made up of steps.
Walking on remote sections of the wall where few travellers make it, was truly humbling and to tread over the paths of many of the Chinese ancestors who believed the wall would protect them from any invaders. For the most part, we had the section of the wall we were walking that day to ourselves – in a country home to over 1.8 billion people, this surprised many of us.
As we trekked along both dilapidated and rebuilt stretches of the wall, the scenery was vast and diverse. Walking through cropped fields to distant green river valleys, trying to comprehend having one of the great wonders of the world as our backdrop.
This has been a truly formidable undertaking and we felt privileged to have the opportunity to appreciate the full majestic beauty of this iconic structure at close quarters, as it snaked over distant hills and disappeared into the horizon, we were mesmerised by the enormity of what we were experiencing. Witnessing the breath taking scenes, you struggle to find words that capture the magnificence of the surroundings, the sun rising and setting behind the Great Wall was truly mystical.
I can honestly say this it was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The bonus was to do this adventure with a group of like-minded trekkers, each having an inspirational tale to tell. It was a joy to share the moments of each day with them. I never envisaged having the opportunity to walk up and down the Great Wall and appreciate the wildness of China. The Chinese people all smile at you and make you feel so welcome; one can’t help but smile back, say “ní hão” (hello) and let them take pictures of you with them.
Given that we were raising funds for the Foundation’s work in India, I couldn’t help but appreciate the shared similarities between the two great nations.
China and India are two of the most populous countries in the world and both are located in Asia. Both are proud of their own individual long civilization that goes back some 5,000 years and both suffered invasions and colonial rules. Both won true independence in the late 1940’s and both advocated the principles of peaceful co-existence. Both peoples respect family and treasure genuineness but above all both share a deep love for their land and culture.
On the very last day, as our long trek was coming to an end, many of us were saddened as it dawned on us on that we will never be able to appreciate (at close quarters), the full splendour of the Great Wall again. I felt as if a bond had been created between the wall and myself and a strong sense of affinity. I managed to find an isolated area on the wall to take in the enormity of what we had achieved over the last few days and capture a treasured moment to reflect on my hopes and aspirations.
Finally, I would like to pay tribute to my childhood friend Nilesh for agreeing to undertake this challenge with me. Who would have thought when we left secondary school some 35 years ago that one day we would come back together to travel across the globe and experience one of the great wonders of the world! At the same time raised over £13,000 for a charity I set up in memory of my Mother. In so many ways Nilesh has been an inspiration, for doing something way out of his comfort zone, not giving up and demonstrating sheer grit and determination to succeed.
To all of you, thank you for sharing this journey with me
He who has not climbed the Great Wall is not a true man.” ~ Mao Zedong