Everyone knows the Great Wall of China but not everyone is aware about its length. There are many differing accounts because it is built from different materials – some are trenches and some are just earthen mounds though majority of it (about 6,250 kms.) is in brick and mortar. As per the latest survey, the Wall runs through 8,850 kms. and many parts of them are slowly being pilfered to be used for local building material. Although started in 202 BC by the first Chinese Emperor, little of that remains and the one we see today was rebuilt and enhanced in the 13th-16th centuries by different dynasties to keep the Mongols at bay and use it as a tax control point for goods passing thru the Silk Road. Needless to say, it is an awesome feat specially when you come face-to-face with it and try to grasp the difficulty and manhours spent in building such an enormous structure!
We went to visit the Wall in Mutianyu, 75 kms. north of Beijing which has one of the most well-preserved sections for tourists. Luckily, it wasn’t a crowded day so we had many parts of it just to ourselves as we trekked through some 2 kms. passing by several watch towers. The height of the pathway itself was 5-6 meters off the ground and looking down the meter-high crenellations made it quite a vertiginous experience. Several parts were really steep even if there were steps to aid you in the climb. As you watch the wall go on and on matching the contour of the mountainous ridge, you can’t help but think of it as a gigantic dragon slowly moving across the land.