I’ve always wanted to visit all of the New 7 Wonders of the World.
And by always, I mean since they got voted in and kind of came into existence under that name back in 2007.
Up until about two weeks ago, I’d successfully managed to cross 6 out of the 7 off of my imaginary list. Which, for a ‘quest’ that only officially started five years ago (as soon as I got my first grown up passport I was off!), ain’t too shabby!
The Great Wall was the final destination.
And I did it!
In true Ash Ketchum style, I CAUGHT THEM ALL! And I genuinely could not be happier about it.
You know the phrase “I could die happy”? Well, I’m not going to say that because it’s too damn morbid. I’ll stick to retire.
I could retire from life.
I could shred my passport and throw my backpack into the Indian Ocean. Except I won’t, because then I’d be stranded and arrested for overstaying my visa.
I could buy a piece of land in the middle of nowhere, build a hut and grow my own cabbages and be happy there for the rest of my life.
Frankly, none of the above would prove true in practice.
But I am SO freaking happy, I can’t say or emphasise it enough.
I spent the whole bus home from the Wall compiling messages to send to the friends I don’t talk to as much anymore, telling them that I still love them and all the reasons why. I was so happy that I skipped off the bus without paying. I gave all the change in my pocket to a blind man playing the flute. I told my stepfather that I was going to take up bird-watching as a hobby. I wrote a very excited Facebook status and got repeatedly congratulated for what is, essentially, just going on a lot of holidays.
Cheesy and cliché as it sounds, I woke up the next day feeling like a new person. A very sleepy new person as it was 2am and I was due to catch a flight at 5:20am, but a new person nonetheless.
Because sure, there are a ton of things I want to do in my life. But this was The One. This was the Big Show, the crème de la crème, the thing that I would lord over all the other old ladies at the Retirement Home. And as it turns out, I can lord it over them a lot sooner than anticipated.
I don’t often post photos of myself on the blog – at least not of my face, though I do have a penchant for showing the back of my head – so please do excuse the sudden overload of me, as well as the slight bragging tone to this post, but I freaking did it!
MACHU PICCHU – July 2011
Fresh off the boat, so to speak, and on my first solo trip.
See that mountain behind me? That’s Huayna Picchu. Only 400 people could climb it per day back then, and it was on a first come first serve basis, meaning that I woke up at 2am to make sure I was one of the very first to arrive at the gates of Machu Picchu to get one of those all-important entry stamps. I was person number 187. The climb is absolutely nuts; easily the most reckless, irresponsible and dangerous thing I’ve ever done! Just search for a video on YouTube, you’ll see! It took 3 hours, all of my energy and a lot of balance to get up and back down, and so in my exhausted state I didn’t realise until I was almost at the exit of the citadel that I hadn’t actually had the Machu Picchu photo. You know the one. I couldn’t find the spot, but this was close enough. So yeah, Huayna Picchu is the reason for my crazy hair, forced smile and awkward perch on the rock (my legs ached way too much to sit down properly!).
I went back a few months ago – I wrote a brief post about it here – and it was just as breathtakingly amazing then.
TAJ MAHAL- July 2012
This was originally supposed to be a volunteer trip to Nepal with my cousin and then-boyfriend, but for their own reasons neither of them were able to come. I went ahead with the volunteering, adding a sneaky little 2 weeks in India on the end of it, something which I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do had either of them tagged along!
There was an incident at the hotel I was staying at in Agra, which resulted in me having a pair of bodyguards with me for the rest of my stay there. I was genuinely forbidden from leaving my hotel room, unless it was to go down to the restaurant for some food, which meant that unfortunately I didn’t get to see as much of Agra as I would have liked. But it also meant that I had on-hand personal photographers and scarecrows warding off the folk who prey on lonely tourists. And I had free pizza.
COLOSSEUM – December 2013
Living in Italy for half of my Erasmus Year Abroad, Rome was less than a four hour train journey from my flat, so there would have had to have been something seriously wrong with me if I hadn’t made the effort to pop on over for a little mooch around. And you can’t go to Rome without seeing the Colosseum now can ya?
It being Winter, it was cold but not cold enough for snow, and from what I can remember barely even cold enough for earmuffs. Not that I’ve worn earmuffs ever in my adult life, but yeah.
The Colosseum was by far the easiest of the Wonders to access – right in the middle of the city, there’s a Subway station right outside so no excessive walking, and not a single death-defying staircase in sight! Take note, all you other Wonders plonked in the middle of nowhere!!
PETRA – September 2014
That’s me in the middle, wearing way too many clothes for a desert. I really need to write a whole post about my day at Petra (and night in a strange man’s cave) because it definitely deserves to have its own shiny star, it was so damn incredible.
From the moment I stepped off of the bus and bought the hat that remained glued to my head for at least the next six months to the next morning when we got persuaded to pay for the previous night’s entertainment – a man who banged a bongo a few times and recited poems we could not understand – which we never really asked for nor particularly enjoyed and waved off by the two guys who, it turned out, had lured us to their cave under the umbrella of a lie, the whole experience was hilariously random.
Had I not ended up stargazing under a blanket of animal fur with an almost-toothless stranger, though, the views and the city of Petra itself would have been enough to keep me happy. More than happy, actually.
CHRIST THE REDEEMER – May 2016
I found Christ the Redeemer to be the most underwhelming of the Wonders.
Construction began in 1922, making it the youngest of all the Wonders by almost 300 years (Taj Mahal having been commissioned for construction in 1632) leaving you questioning how on earth it fits on the list.
And in comparison to the other 6 that share the Wonder of the World moniker, it’s kind of boring. When you’ve got whole cities constructed in the middle of dense jungle, the most magnificent proclamation of love in the world, and a wall that spans the length of almost a whole country, you kind of just think anyone could build a statue and stick it on a hill.
Still, it’s pretty to look at.
My thoughts on Christ the Redeemer: The Reality of Christ the Redeemer
CHICHEN ITZÁ – August 2016
Due to time constraints Chichen Itzá was the only one I visited as part of an organised tour. Ordinarily I tend to avoid tours, not because I don’t like them but because I like to do things at my own pace, and my attention span is basically non-existent these days. One of the downsides of working freelance – 20% of your day is spent actually working; the other 80% is flipping between Youtube, Buzzfeed and Bloglovin’, with the occasional hour or two of Netflix thrown into the mix, resulting in your attention span regressing to that of a two-year old.
Anyway, the tour was actually a really good idea. It cost $55 per person but included a load of other little added bonuses as well as entry and explanation of Chichen Itzá, such as an optional dip in one of the local cenotes, visits to some of the indigenous Mayan villages and the all-important buffet lunch. I’ll eventually write a whole post about it, but for now just enjoy this photo of me post-torrential downpour.
GREAT WALL OF CHINA – August 2016
One of the things I learnt about China on this trip that I was previously oblivious to is that it’s actually a really hot country during summer. I’d even go so far as to say it’s one of the hottest I’ve ever been to. Which is why I ended up climbing the Great Wall of China in the least amount of clothes since that Halloween I dressed like a “cat”. And we all know the type of cat I’m talking about: the type that isn’t actually a cat, but merely two strips of cloth barely covering an underage girl’s modesty.
Back to the Great Wall… It. Was. Amazing!
I don’t know whether the fact that it was my grand finale made me enjoy it so much, or the company I had for the day, or the fact that I was basically a celebrity and now feature in about 16 different families’ photos of that day, but it was definitely one of the BEST days I’ve had since leaving the UK back in March.
Read more about my visit to the Great Wall: How to Get to Mutianyu Great Wall Without a Tour