As with most things in life, when you have little expectations, you most certainly get positively surprised. This is what happened when we visited the Great Wall of China. We were actually contemplating whether we should go in the first place. We thought it was one of those so-called must-see places in China and we tend to make a big circle around those rather touristy spots. In the end we decided to go to a rather remote part of the wall, which is harder to access and where you actually have to use your own leg power to reach the wall. This way we would avoid the big bulk of Chinese tourists who generally prefer to take the more comfortable path via cable car.
We spent four days in a small town, called Xizhasi, which we used as a base for hikes to the wall. Before visiting China we only had the omnipresent picture in our head that you find when you google “Great Wall of China”. In times where the idea of building walls is gaining popularity again, accompanied by a revival of nationalistic thinking that can be witnessed all over the world, visiting the most famous wall of human history is quite thought-provoking. Leaving aside the aversion towards walls and isolation in general, walking (and climbing) on the Great Wall really makes you astonished by this architectural masterpiece. The wall is 21.196 km long! The first bricks were mounted in the 5thcentury BC. In the following centuries, the construction of the wall continued until the 1300s. The main purpose of the wall was to defend their prosperous country and fertile land from outside threats, namely invaders like the Mongols. Looking at the wall today, it is just unimaginable how people managed to set one stone on top of the other in the most remote places and at inclines of nearly 90 degrees – more than 500 years ago! One can only imagine how many people must have died throughout the hundreds of years of construction. Today, many parts of the wall are left in ruins, meaning that when you climb the wall, it is up to your love of adventure and your climbing skills, which parts of the wall you want to crest and where you rather turn around. Who knows us, can imagine that we are not so much the turn-around type of people. We enjoy challenging each other and ourselves and we love to bend our limits. So soon we found ourselves in midst of a decayed part of the wall in the middle of a vertical incline. If you ever climbed up a wall, a tree, mountain or whatsoever, you know that often it´s easier to go up than down. This was exactly the situation we found ourselves in. Plus, there was drizzling rain. So the stones were not only loose but also wet. And we had backpacks on, which made it even harder to keep balance. We decided that it was actually more risky to go back down, so we continued climbing upwards. Full concentration, no wrong steps, checking for every rock if it was solid, teamwork. The strength of a relationship often displays itself in situations of extreme. Once again communication and trust were the key words. We did great. After about 20 minutes of hardcore adrenaline ejection (it felt more like an hour), we reached the top, our clothes soaked in sweat and rain. Proud of how we mastered this delicate situation together and relieved that it all worked out. At the top we were greeted with a breathtaking view of the wall shrouded in soft white clouds and a plateau on top of a former watchtower were we spent the night in our tent, falling asleep with the silence of nature. The next morning the noise of a drone woke us up, coming out of nowhere, making circles around our tent. Welcome to China.