Photos from India

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Trekking the Great Wall of China

What an incredible day! I never could have imagined it would have turned out to be as beautiful as it did but I have to say, it was fantastic. I boarded a bus in smog filled Beijing looking up at the white sky and thick atmosphere that enveloped everything around. As the bus drove on, the smog continued and I accepted that my day on the great wall was going to be filled with the same disgusting atmosphere that I have been trapped in since leaving Western Yunann. About an hour and a half outside of Beijing, I started to notice the slightest hint of blue in the sky. I thought that my eyes must be deceiving me as I haven't been able to see the sky through all of the pollution since leaving Yunann. Gradually, the blue began to become brighter and more brilliant. Mountains started appearing in the distance and even the hint of white pillowy clouds began to show up. Two hours away now and suddenly there was a drastic change. It was like emerging from a long dark tunnel that cuts through a mountain pass. The sky was the brightest shade of blue and the hills a rich color of green. You could see for miles in every direction and that is when I got my first glimpse. The Great Wall was crawling along the ridge of a nearby mountain. Like the spines on the tail of a dragon it stretched into the distance as far as your eyes could see.
I chose to visit a couple of sections of the great wall that were a bit more remote than the main tourist destinations. They haven't been restored like most of the tourist spots and you could actually walk for about 8 miles between the two sections all on top of the wall. It sounded like a great way to experience the Great Wall and now at the end of such a wonderful day, I can say it was everything I imagined it to be and more.

As a child, I remember learning about the Great Wall of China in history class and it brought up all kinds of visions of how work on the wall was done. I pictured what it looked like and how anything like it was humanly possible. I think we tend to build up a lot of sights in the world to be something more than they actually are but the Great Wall more than exceeded my expectations. Stretching to the horizon along the ridge of the mountains and still slowly crumbling beneath my feet, it was a spectacular experience to be following in the footsteps of time and history. There were hardly any tourists where I was which made it the type of exploration you conjure up in your mind when you picture something as ancient and grand as the Great Wall. Old guard towers were still crumbling down to the rugged path on top of the wall while grass grew between the mortar and all the while the whole structure just sat clinging to the narrow ridge of the mountain where it has stood for the last thousand or so years.

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