Thursday and Friday October 22-23
After a long flight we are finally in Beijing, China! This morning we met Jason our local guide and our driver Mr Chang. Jason explained how he got his nickname “Lucky J” from when he chose his English name. He closed his eyes and randomly pointed on a list of names and was lucky to have picked a boys name.
Despite most of us only stepping of an overnight flight an hour or 2 earlier we made our way to the Temple of Heaven.
As we wondered through the beautiful manicured gardens of the temple observed a regular meeting of parents who were advertising their children’s details and interests in hope to set them up on dates as the children are too busy to meet partners. Our group found it fascinating and peculiar.
The Temple or Heaven was magnificent! A beautiful building built with no nails only joining wood and painted in stunning colours.
After this we got our first taste of local cuisine for lunch and rested our tired traveling bodies.
This evening a few of us braved the confusing intersections and ventured out for a wonder around Beijing still pinching ourselves that we are here. At dinner we tried some unfamiliar dishes such as bullfrog which was one of the less intimidating choices. We have some brave women on this trip! Can’t wait for tomorrow.
Saturday 24 October
Had a lovely lazy start to the day to insure we were well rested ready to start our journey on the wall tomorrow. Today would be a day of sightseeing around Beijing.
We boarded the bus and headed to Tiananmen Square. “I just can’t believe I’m here” said adventurer Pauline. We braved the busy underpass from Tiananmen Square to the entrance of the Forbidden City. The forbidden city was an impressive sight that served as the Chinese imperial palace for 600 years. We soon discovered that the beautiful buildings weren’t the only popular attraction, as more and more locals asked us to take photos with them. Not surprisingly mind you as we were quiet obviously the most attractive group around 😉 !
After hearing many stories about the emperors and the concubines that lived in the quarters over the centuries we practiced our stair climbing to the top of Jingshan Coal Hill to see the sun set over the Forbidden City. The view was spectacular with a 360 degree view of Beijing.
At dinner the conversations flowed as we get to know each other more and more. We feasted on many wonderful local style meals. One of the meals we couldn’t easily identify so Ange asked a waiter if it was duck or pork he brought her a fork! Haha!
An early night for the team tonight as we begin our journey on the wall tomorrow where the real adventure begins.
Sunday 25 October
This morning we got up early to begin our first day walking The Great Wall of China. We met our assistant guide Peter who was quiet obviously a kung fu rockstar who walked the wall everyday.
We traveled 2 hours out of Beijing City to Remnant Badaling. As the skyscrapers and heavy traffic turned to rolling mountains and trees we began to realise what we were in for as we saw the Great Wall weaving over and around the towering mountains.
We readied ourselves and set out to brave the cold and the never ending stairs and steep slopes that seemed to stretch up and down at impossible angles. As we caught our breath from time to time on steep inclines the breath taking views where worth the challenge.
As promised Jenny, Ange and Lou wore their tiger and dragon onesies on the wall. Jenny and Ange wore it for the whole journey to be “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”. However they weren’t as inconspicuous as the ancient proverb suggests.
Exhaustion or delirium from what felt like millions of steps left us finding the angles in which we needed to position ourselves to stand up on the steep slops incredibly humorous. And the sight of the bus as the end of our first day on the wall far too exciting. Once we reached the hotel we were less pleased to see the 4 flights of stairs to our hotel rooms.
At dinner, there were more conversations as we expressed how we are feeling so far now that the walk has begun, and what we hope to get from the journey. It is obvious that the group is connecting well and as the team leader I am very impressed and humbled by the compassion, support and courage of the women I’m sharing this journey with.
Monday 26 October
Today is day two on the Wall!
After breakfast, we transfer to Shihuyu Village, our starting point for today’s trek. From here, we follow a small dirt road that zigzags up a slope to the Great Wall, enjoying spectacular views en route. Upon reaching the Great Wall, we will take a moment to catch our breath and to admire endless mist-shrouded mountain vistas in the distance and the immense Xishui Reservoir below. While some sections remain unrestored and overgrown, this morning’s trek is relatively gentle. In the afternoon, we follow a restored section of the wall, navigating more steep ascents and descents. In the early evening, we leave the wall and transfer to our hotel for a well earned rest!
Tuesday 27 October
Day three on the wall began with some weary legs. Unfortunately Teresa needed to stay at the hotel to rest her knee which was swollen and sore from a fall yesterday so she could join us. The rest of the group carried on up another bushy climb from Xizhazi Village to reach the wall Jiankou. We passed a sign that said “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints. Keep the wall wild and wonderful.” This resonated strongly with us as we have committed to respecting the wall and have felt its wildness and beauty.
The wall started overgrown and rugged and slowly undulated to a more touristy end of the wall Mutianyu that was full of day trippers. People who still looked fresh and improperly dressed for a 5 day hike passed us. It’s our 3rd day into a 5 day trek we justified to people who didn’t ask. We remember a quote we heard our tour guide day yesterday “you will never be a true hero unless you step on the wall” – by Chairman Mao the founder of New China.
Poor Lou got stung by a wasp, she has been a trouper on this trip, not a great fan of heights and overcoming challenges everyday. “When I need a hand I get 22! Everyone is so helpful. I couldn’t do it without them!” said Lou.
In the end we made it through! One of the most entertaining moments of the day was when Pauline mounted a cannon she found on the wall, channeled her inner Cher and burst into “if I could turn back time”.
Finally after well deserved showers and some sitting down, we headed to dinner for a break from the local food for pizza! When we arrived a chorus of groans as we discovered we needed to walk up two floors of escalators that weren’t working. None the less pizza and icecream was had (not quiet the pizza we were expecting….durian pizza for example #why and chocolate and strawberry pizza #mindblown)
Wednesday 28 October
Our longest day on the wall! Today was 7 hours of beautiful views and rocky bush tracks and lots of achievements.
Teresa joined us again so it was great to have the full team together. At our starting point at Gubeiku we inherited 2 ‘wall wives’. The wall wives are local villagers who travel to the wall everyday to help the foreigners cross the wall. At the end they will ask you to buy their souvenirs, they were very kind and helpful so we happily bought a few things.
Pauline found a much bigger cannon to sing Cher songs on. Definitely more impressive and just as funny as yesterday.
“Feel the serenity” is right! What a view!!! Perfect weather and bright blue skies meant for another breathtaking experience that required thousands of photographs! Angela’s tiger onsie made another appearance to reflect the crouching tiger or Woho mountains towering around us.
We eventually made a diversion off the wall and through a dense forest to bypass a military area. We passed an abandoned hut and some locals’ farms. Peter our assistant guide told us about some of the history of the Mongols and China and that most of the bush we traveled through would have been burned down to provide easy sight of the land and possible invasions. He also showed us wild China dates that grew on the trees around us. (They were sour but yum and hopefully won’t ruin the rest of the trip for us!)
Lou again conquered her fear of heights crossing high and narrow parts of the wall with a steady head! We are very proud of you!
More songs were sung and photos where taken and we rejoined the wall at Jinshaling. By this time the team where ready to go home but they don’t call this a challenge for nothing and we powered on until we saw our heavenly bus to take us to where we could get horizontal.
As we bussed back to our hotel for the evening we saw a glimpse of the wall lite up with lights in the distant mountains. A bright brilliant curving light resting on top of the mountains. Specky as!
Thursday 29 October
Congratulations today is your day! Your mountain is waiting so get out on your way!
Our final day on the wall was quite a feat. We were to trek from Gubeikou to Wohuhan. ‘One big up and one big down’ they told us. And it was very up and very very down in parts. So down in fact that surely they didn’t realise how down it was. So down in fact that a few of us decided to go around!!! Another beautiful view and stunning weather for our last day wondering through the mountains.
We had lunch next to the wall and a Kung Fu lesson from Peter to finish off our incredible journey on the Great Wall of China.
We traveled back to Beijing in peak hour traffic and were amazed to be missing the wall already! Jason our guide took us to an acrobat show which was wonderful. For dinner we had a free night; some were weary from the journey and chose to enjoy their comfortable rooms. Some braved the freezing weather and adventured out to see what they could find!
I can’t believe the courage and determination of the group to complete the 5 day challenge. They supported each other so compassionately and willingly. I have been humbled to see accomplish so much and learn from such strong and capable women.
“On you will hike and I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems what ever they are. So be sure when you step, step with care an great tact and remember that life’s a great balancing act.” (Dr Suess)
Friday 30 October
Our last day together.
This morning we traveled into a very local area of Beijing to travel around in traditional rickshaws around the charming Hutongs. We were hassled by a very determined local trying to sell Rolexes. We visited a local family home where we learnt about the area and the ancient and now rare art of inside painting (Neihuahu) were they paint detailed pictures on the inside of bottles.
We climbed a few more steep stairs because we weren’t sure if we had done enough over the last 5 days to a drum tower for a birds eye few of the city.
After lunch we traveled to the 798 art district located in the Dashanzi area. Originally it was an area that produced electronics but has now been renovated into a giant art space full of interesting shops and galleries.
After freshening up we went out for our final dinner as a group! We feasted on delicious peking duck amongst a mountain of other delicious food. Beer, wine and stories were shared. Toasts were made to each other as we have connected and supported each other faster and more than many of us had anticipated. This is our last night together on the this trip and in a way a its sad but also in a way it’s liberating to be able to feel so accepted and cared for so quickly. As adventurer Casey wrote “I couldn’t have been luckier to have done this trek with this group of amazing women including my mother. We started this journey as likeminded strangers but will walk away as life long friends.”
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