The highlight of our trip to China, a miraculous feat of engineering and labour and a mandatory must see! A very close contender, alongside machhapuchhre in the Himalaya, for the best sight on our trip so far.
Started by China’s first emperor, Qin Shi Huang, and later added to by the Qing and Ming Dynasties, the Great Wall is the world’s longest human-made structure, stretching over approximately 6,400 km (4,000 miles) from Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Nur in the west, along an arc that roughly delineates the southern edge of Inner Mongolia, but stretches to over 6,700 km (4,160 miles) in total. It is also the largest human-made structure ever built in terms of surface area and mass. At its peak the wall was guarded by more than one million men. It has been estimated that somewhere in the region of 2 to 3 million Chinese died as part of the centuries-long project of building the wall.
We trekked the less touristed and restored section from Jinshanling to Simatai (10k), a truly authentic wall experience. We awoke at 5am and following a 3–hour drive were ready to start our hike at 9. It was a tough 4–hours (30 towers) but it was spectacular with incredible surroundings. When you look back at the long section completed, it’s just jaw-dropping. We were very snap happy, with around 350 photographs. Amazingly, we only met two other trekkers en route, so we had the wall pretty much to ourselves.
The same hair raising feeling that you get at the Taj and the Pyramids, and one you don’t get at the other UNESCO sites, a unique cultural heritage site and a natural selection as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.
Interesting fact: the myth that the Great Wall is visible with the naked eye from the moon was finally buried in 2003, when China’s first astronaut failed to spot the barrier from space. The wall can be seen from a low earth orbit, but so can many other objects of human construction, such as motorways and railways. Looked at from above, the relative width and uniform colour of large roads renders them more distinct than the Great Wall, a structure even less visible from the moon. The myth has been edited from Chinese textbooks, where is has cast its spell over generations of Chinese.
Video also included! More photos here.