After our sojourn in Dunhuang, we were supposed to be headed west along the Silk Road towards Urumqi, Turpan and Kashgar, right up to the edge of Kazakhstan (totally NOT a pilgrimage to see the homeland of Borat). (Dziekuje)
Somewhere along the way in Dunhuang, we decided to scrap that plan because of stories we heard from fellow travellers. Stories that chilled us to our bones… literally… Apparently, it had already started snowing in Xinjiang and the night time temperature could plummet to as low as -20◦C.
I think we’ve already had our fair share of coldness in Tibet, so we decided to head east (again) along the Silk Road towards the ancient Chinese capital city of Xi’An.
Our first stop along the way to Xi’An was Jiayuguan (嘉峪关).
For us, there was only one reason to visit Jiayuguan – To visit the symbolic end of the Great Wall of China and the “Impregnable Defile under Heaven” (REALLY!).
I know… after our short time in China, I am beginning to doubt my own command of the English language.
So, if you were to ask me what my thoughts were on seeing the Great Wall of China, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, and a testament to the ingenuity of the ancient Chinese civilization, I can only say that it was… Great…
In fact, it was humongous, and I am sure the particular section of the wall that we chose to climb was inclined vertically.
The Great Wall was built as a defence against marauding barbarians from the west. I don’t know how good it was at doing its job back then, but to this day, as a modern man who has had a fair bit of exposure to cutting-edge defence technology, it remained a powerful deterrent. I took one look at the wall and was prepared to just leave it at that. I didn’t care how much treasure central China held, I was not going to climb that wall.
Of course, there was a perfect counter-argument against impeccable logic such as that – It comes in the form of Jo.
I’m sure Genghis Khan had a platoon of complaining wives standing behind his vanguards to make sure they didn’t back out of the invasion of China just because there were ONLY a few million steps on the Great Wall in the way too.
Unlike Jo, I’ve never seen any portions of the Great Wall before (not in real life, and definitely not from outer space) (incidentally, I just found out that “the Great Wall is the only man-made structure you can see from space” factoid is actually a MYTH) (it was famously debunked when China’s first astronaut, Yang Liwei reported he couldn’t see the structure of the wall from his capsule window) (cue dramatic music) (that is a LOT of bracketed text), so Jiayuguan was a fabulous introduction to the Great Wall for me.
I just wished I could have seen the sights without climbing it…
On other news, I’ve got another article published… this time by Boots n All about how Jo and I managed to keep from killing each other during our travels so far.
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