The Great Wall of China stretches across more than 4,000 miles of northern China, covering more than twice the distance from Seattle to...
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — The Great Wall of China stretches across more than 4,000 miles of northern China, covering more than twice the distance from Seattle to Chicago. Over the past 10 months, Chelsea, Mich., native Rob England and Ypsilanti, Mich., resident Jamie Bradish walked every step of it.
The two 38-year-olds started their trek in May 2006 west of Yumenguan in Gansu province. On Tuesday, they reached the final beacon tower at Tiger Mountain, near the North Korean border.
The self-proclaimed “Wallnuts” are, as far as they know, the first people to walk the entire route of the Great Wall, which includes some newly discovered sections.
Bradish, a sometime bartender, occasional freelance writer and wanderer of the globe, planned the trip and persuaded England, an old college friend, to go along. They covered an average of about 18 miles a day, some of it on the wall itself and some on roads within sight of the wall.
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England will return to the United States this month; Bradish plans to spend a few more months in Asia. You can check out their adventures on Bradish’s blog at www.thegreatwallnut.com.
“It really hasn’t sunk in,” England said in an e-mail. “We just finished today, and you get so used to setting your sights on walking the 30 km you plan for the day, down to going 6 km to your break, even splitting that up and just concentrating on doing the next km. Thinking of the trek as a whole is a bit overwhelming.”
Between long stretches of putting one foot in front of the other, Bradish and England experienced China in a way few foreigners ever do. One day, they wandered into an area marked as a nature preserve and spent a couple of hours chatting with a pair of soldiers before realizing they were being interrogated.
Another time they stopped for a break and ended up spending the afternoon at a nearby school, playing with the kids at recess and answering questions. The teachers shared tea and later treated them to a home-cooked meal.
“This was a common occurrence,” Bradish wrote. “People were constantly offering us food, water, rides, and inviting us into their homes. The kindness of the Chinese people is absolutely astounding; we came here expecting to fall in love with the Great Wall, but it’s the people we fell for.”