The first time I mentioned I wanted to hike 1,800 miles of the Great Wall, my father’s mouth fell open and he gave me that all too familiar look of incredulation. He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment while slowly shaking his head, as if the gentle prodding could somehow teleport him to a situation where the information he was trying to process made sense.
To his dismay, I assume, he opened his eyes to find me still standing there with a “Please don’t have a heart attack,” grin on my face.
In an effort to undo his tightly knitted brows, he sputtered a bit and then said, “You want to do what?!”
My mother, on the other hand, sported a fashionable nauseous expression (tinted with just the right shade of green) while proclaiming she didn’t like the idea at all. She recovered quickly, however, and followed up with the oft-heard mantra, “Geez kid, I don’t know where you get this crazy sense of adventure, but it certainly isn’t from me.”
My parents (in the photo below), well before hurricane Jamie.
Although I agree with most people’s assertion that I’m a bit nuts for wanting to do this, I was surprised to find that few people have actually made the journey. After doing a bit of research, I could only find three foreigners who’d hiked it, and one admirable lunatic from California who biked it.
Back in 1987, William Lindesay made the trek amid unimaginable red tape and documented his experience in the book “Alone on the Great Wall”.
Three years later, Kevin Foster tackled the Wall on his bike. His account is a good read and can be found online here.
To my knowledge the last documented foreigners, Beau Basevicius and Eddie Davis, completed the hike back in 2000. A couple of stories still in existence online can be found here and here.
As luck would have it, Basevicius and Davis are from Michigan, the state in which I live. It took me more than a year and countless, agonizing phone calls to Beau’s relatives (once I got a hold of his family, I found them to be really friendly and charming, but oh, how I loathe the phone), but I finally contacted him and met him in person. Unlike William Lindesay who refused to help my fellow Michiganians, Beau has shared with me a wealth of information and remarkably, still answers my phone calls (his family is far more charming on the phone than I am, to be sure).
Big kudos to Beau and the trailblazers before me, and to mom and dad; I’m certain you’ll both look fab with the new gray hairs you’re sure to sprout.