Types of wall
It is always so incredible, no matter how well you think that you have researched something or covered all of your bases, you always miss something. We had spent two weeks along the wall prior to our trip and we were convinced the knowledge of our journey was there, how wrong I was just about to be proven. I was aware that we had a large bit of desert to cross, in the Gansu province, maybe 1000km plus, fairly flat Gobi desert, not so bad.
I don’t know where I got this info, or was I not paying attention to William when he was telling me about the route, in the end this turned out to be more than 2000km, it just never stopped and the most amazing thing about it was that the crew could never tell me where and when it would stop or if it ever would. At some parts I thought we had followed a wall that had never been found as this was not anything like what we had been told. The other great surprise were these mountains that would pop up out of nowhere in the most obscure piece of desert. I kept asking the crew when and where the rock and brick wall would start, the answer was always next week and this went on for months, until I was finally convinced me that they knew as little about the wall as we did and as well as this I became more and more convinced that no reconnaissance work was done prior to this trip by them. The only work done was the studying of the inaccurate maps of which we had 22 pages of photostatted copy in varying scales which made it nearly impossible to work out any accurate distances.
My perception of the wall was some mud wall and the rest was this massive brick and rock wall which is the perception that the world has. The Great Wall of China stretching, across China, being this massive brick structure running from end to end how wrong I was again or was it another age old myth from this mythical and secretive land. Much to my disbelief I found the wall consisted of four basic types.
The first was the packed mud wall. This was by far the biggest section of the wall and probably stretches for some 2500km across China and is the biggest single type of wall in the whole system of walls in the NW. This structure is made from hand packed mud and straw which was compacted in wooden frames layer by layer. In some areas up to 8 meters high and 5 meters at the base. I have stood in awe of many a thing in my life , but to see and experience this is something that one can only do justice to by seeing it first hand as it lays stretched out from horizon to horizon, simmering in the desert heat.
The next section that we found were natural barriers, consisting of mountains, rivers and canyons, which would be lined with rows of watch towers along its length so that the Chinese would still have a warning system of any enemy movement around these areas. Some of these barriers would carry on for a few hundred kilometres with only towers and no wall. These areas were interspersed all along the wall and made our journey really challenging trying to find were the wall was and where it started again, as the towers were misleading and not always in the direction that the wall went.
In some of the more desolate areas where there was no mud or water or any other materials to build a wall, a trench would be dug into the dessert, so unsuspecting invaders would travel along the desert not expecting anything and fall into the trench. We found maybe 100km of this type in the desert.
The final wall type was the high grade strategic rock and brick wall which extended for some 800 km from the Bohai sea in the east past the North of Beijing and on through Badeling and into the mountains. This strategic wall was in some areas up to 15 -20 meters high the architecture and building methods were incredible. The area and terrain on which the wall was build can only be described as increadible.There was no mountain too high or too steep that the wall could not be build on, not only was this accomplished the wall never seemed to take the easiest or most direct route as it snaked its way across the mountains and valleys in its quest to reach the sea.