The Great Wall Challenge
Winding its way across the north of China, from the Yellow Sea to the Gobi Desert, the Great Wall of China is one of mankind’s most impressive accomplishments. As part of this adventure, you’ll travel through history to the very heart of China’s ancient culture.
Over five days, you will challenge yourself like never before as you trek on remote and unrestored paths, between mountains, through local villages and across rolling farmlands. With the support of our expert guides, you’ll explore the many facets of the Great Wall, deciphering the ancient stories and poems etched into its watchtowers, every brick seeming to tell a story of war and adventure.
You will also get to explore the contrasting personality of Beijing, immerse yourself in the ancient history of the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven, and experience the poignancy of Tiananmen Square.
Best of all, you’ll be helping Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand (LBC) support the 6 Kiwis a day diagnosed with a blood cancer or blood condition.
The Great Wall Challenge
Blood Cancer or a related condition can strike anyone, anywhere, without warning.
Our team of Support Service Coordinators are there every step of the way to support patients and their families. The fundraising received from the Great Wall Challenge will go towards ensuring we continue to offer this level of support no matter where you are in New Zealand.
Some examples of the programmes offered by Leukaemia & Blood Cancer New Zealand include:
Regular support and education groups
Every year we hold 133 support and education groups across the country. These groups provide a place where patients and family members can come together to share their experiences and learn more about their disease from sessions run by health professionals.
A Monkey in My Chair programme
This programme has been designed to keep our young patients connected to their classmates while they undergo treatment. Our support team visits the school to educate them about their classmates’ condition.
Blood Cancer Patient Forum
We hold a biennial Blood Cancer Forum where patients and their families can come together to meet others living with similar conditions and listen to presentations from global experts about their conditions.
The Great Wall Challenge
Dates: 15-24 September 2017
Registration fee: NZD$770 (non-refundable)
Fundraising target: $3,500 (excludes travel)
Travel quote: $4,790*, including taxes
Trip duration: 10 days
Challenge duration: 5 days
Accommodation: Twin-share in 3 star hotels and guesthouses
Minimum age: 18 (younger ages considered on application)
*Subject to change
ADVENTURE BLOG: 15-24 September 2017
And we’re off!! The team all met at the airport for the 12 hour flight to Beijing. Our matching Leukaemia and Blood Cancer T-shirts made us stand out from the crowd and prompted a few questions from the crew, we even got a shout-out at the end of the flight to wish us luck with the trek!
After a long flight we touched down in Beijing late into the night where we were met by our guide Michael. The heavy traffic on the roads meant it took us a while to get to our hotel but Michael kept the team entertained with explanations about Beijing and the customs here. Finally we arrived at our accommodation, a little weary but excited for the adventure ahead!!
This morning the team had some time to relax and explore the local surroundings as well suss out some good shopping spots!
We then headed for Jingshan Park for our Tai Chi lesson with Master Howard. The grand entrance to the park caught the groups eye straight away with two large marble lion statues standing proudly outside the gate. The impressive gateway led into a beautiful and impeccably kept garden which gave us instant relief from the busy hustle and bustle of the streets outside. Master Howard, dressed head to toe in golden silk took the team through their paces as they performed the one-legged rooster and created cloud shapes with their arms. After taking time to focus our energy and have a few laughs, the team were awarded the title of Tai Chi Masters!
Following the lesson the group took a short walk through the garden and up the steps to the grand pavilion that perched on top of the hill. At the top the team were treated to panoramic views of Beijing. Despite the thick fog, we could still make out the intricate architecture of the vast sprawling city below. The impressive building not only served as lookout but also housed a giant golden Buddha.
Lunch was a delicious feast of Chinese food including egg fried rice, sweet and sticky chicken, breaded chilli lamb and sizzling soy broccoli. The food went down well and gave the team a great insight into real Chinese cuisine.
It was our turn to cook next as we heading across the city to cooking school. Chef Zhou Chao was ready to show the team what it takes to be king of the kitchen in China! We learnt to make four traditional dishes including stir fried broccoli with oyster sauce, dry stir fry green beans, black pepper beef and Gong bao chicken. The kitchen soon heated up with all 10 woks firing and 20 cooks working their magic! The team proved to be naturals in the kitchen as they produced a delicious dinner!
Feeling full to the brim the team headed back to the hotel after our cooking lesson to relax after our first busy day exploring Beijing!
Today was the day for ticking off the main highlights Beijing has to offer. After another delicious breakfast the team clambered onto the bus and headed for the first stop of the day, Tiananmen Square. The vast square spans 109 acres and is surrounded by grand significant buildings including the Monument to the People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People, the National Museum of China, and the Mausoleum of Mao Zedong.
The team then walked through the giant gateway into the Forbidden city where ancient buildings stretched out in front of us and the contrast of new and old came to light as the modern skyscrapers sat in the distance behind the great complex of terracotta coloured roof tops.
Today’s lunch was a spicy concoction of meat and vegetable dishes laced with chilli, it certainly left the team a little red in the face!
Next on the agenda was the Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven. A more peaceful place than the previous sights, rich with green trees some of which are over 600 years old and people practising Tai Chi and stretching throughout the gardens.
The final sight for the day was the infamous acrobatic show which was a sight to be seen as acrobats swung around on giant metal wheels and motorcyclists whizzed around inside a giant sphere. The show gave us a good insight into Chinese theatre etiquette!
Today was topped off with a team dinner where the team sampled steam buns and bullfrog.
An early night was required so everyone is ready for the first day of walking on the wall!!
It was an early start this morning for the team, as today we make our way out of the city and into the countryside to start our first day of trekking.
After an early breakfast we were straight on the bus for the three hour drive to Quing Tombs, an imperial mausoleum complex known as the best preserved tombs in China. As we drove up the sacred road towards the Tombs we discovered the grand parade of sculptures that lined each side. The risen pathway that stretched down the middle of the road was created for the emperors to walk down when they were visiting the tombs to carry out ceremonies. The intricacy of the marble carving that sat outside the Qing tomb was amazing to see.
We stopped off at a local restaurant nearby for lunch where we sampled local produced and a delicious sweet potato dish that tasted similar to toffee apples.
It was time to jump back on the bus and head for our start point on the Great Wall which was Taipingzhai. Today’s trek would take us along undulating sections of the wall to Huangyaguan. Although the trek today was short the terrain was certainly testing with steep inclines and declines. The vista from the top of the first watch tower set the tone for the rest of the afternoon’s trekking with stunning mountain views surrounding the wall. The team were in awe of the craftsmanship that must have gone into building this structure that perched on the edge of two mountain sides and stretched as far as the eye could see. The group proved what a strong team they were as everyone clapped each other across the finish line!
Cathy and Robyn then treated us to a marching demonstration, they were awesome!!
Our guesthouse this evening is Huang Ya Shanzhuang, an old military post. The feel of the accommodation was far more rustic and traditional than today with all the rooms surrounding a garden courtyard. We had another delicious dinner together then it was off to bed.
Dean’s Guest blog – Taking on The Great Wall
Sore feet, sore quads, an aching bum and a bed so hard the mattress must have a concrete core. Who would sign up for that experience? Turns out, me … and 17 other people who are all having a ball trekking The Great Wall; along with our tour leader, the fabulous Imogen, and tour guide, the fearless Michael.
For me this trek is a moment of considerable reflection. I have seen first-hand the trials patients with life threatening leukaemia face on their road to recovery. In April 2016 my partner, Fiona, was diagnosed with Acute Promyelocytic Leukaemia. To say this turned our world upside down would be an understatement. Fiona is now doing well and in remission, and we are getting our lives back to the new normal.
So far The Great Wall has delivered breath-taking views, incredible history and an unbelievable new group of friends. The commitment of this team to giving leukaemia the boot needs to be seen to be believed – one of our team is completing the trek in full fire-fighting gear, helmet and all ! How’s that for one tough Kiwi chicky!
We’re now at the end of day 2 of our adventures. Day 3 awaits. Despite being foot sore and tired we’re all looking forward to the next part of our journey on The Great Wall. Stay tuned for more!
After a restful nights sleep (everyone is getting used to the slightly firm beds) we hopped on the bus to make our way to Mutianyu – today’s starting point. It was a short but eventful journey with Michael our guide singing us a traditional Chinese song and the bus being held up by some interesting roadworks.
The trek started at a new complex built to accommodate visitors to the wall, there were fancy toilets and even a Starbucks! While waiting in line for the shuttle bus, the team brought a little bit of New Zealand to the wall with Joan leading the group in a song called “Tutira mai nga iwi”, the Chinese tourists loved it!
Once at the base of the wall it was time to pull our Leukaemia and Blood Cancer socks up and start the climb up the Sky Ladder! It was up, up, up for most of the trekking today as the team climbed the mountain side. It was a hard slog but we made our way from watchtower to watchtower. The whole team raced up the stairs and before long we were all at the top peering down at the endless staircase below.
We visited a local restaurant for lunch where we had a whole carp baked in ginger which was delicious!
Back on the bus we drove to Huairou where we are staying for the next couple of nights. Over dinner the team had a chance to test their knowledge on China with a game of Trivia! The prize was a foot massage from Michael, Chris and Linda were pretty pleased to win!
And that was that the end of another successful day for the team.
The day we’ve all been waiting for, the toughest day of trekking as we have to climb 1000 stairs up and 1000 stairs down, not an easy task!
There was something a little different on the menu for lunch today as we picked up our Subway sandwiches then elegantly jumped on the chair lift to take us to the start of the trek.
Just keep stepping, just keep moving! We could see our challenge for the day stretched far into the distance in front of us but everyone kept the smiles on their faces (sort of) and reached the top of the 1000 steps in one piece.
Away from the business of the earlier sections, it was time to take a walk on the wild side of the wall. This revealed a different side to the Great Wall that not many other people got to see. The untouched ruins gave us a good insight into how the structure of the wall was created.
The way back offered another challenge as we climbed back down the steep staircases and soaked in the view of what we had just managed to hike up!
The team ended the day with a fun toboggan ride down the mountain which was hilarious!
We mixed it up for dinner tonight and shared a scrumptious Hot pot where the team got to cook their own meat and veg then surprised Shelley with a birthday cake (she had tried to keep it quiet!).
The end of another great day and a huge effort from the group completing the hardest day of trekking yet. Bring on the final day!!
All of a sudden the last day on the wall was upon us! Everyone rocked their LBC t-shirts and socks for the final hike today. After a team huddle we set off for the hike one final time. Although it was the last day there was no relief from the endless stair climbs so it was straight up a huge set of steps for the first part of the walk. Across the valley two long, vertical sections of wall reached from the bottom to the top of the mountain face. We were pleased to be on our side of the wall as we watched hundreds of tourists scurrying up the steps.
The team made it to the top of the section we were climbing and glanced down once more, taking some time to absorb the views and be grateful that the only way from now was down! We all made our way back to the bottom and congratulated each other on completing five days of back to back trekking along the Great Wall of China!
This afternoon’s activity was a little more relaxing as the group enjoyed a foot and neck massage, things got interesting when the hammers came out but everyone felt better for it. Feeling re-energised team LBC all joined in with a team sing along on the bus with everything from Grease to Dave Dobbyn!!
Dinner tonight was a Korean BBQ where the team cooked their own dishes and raised a glass to finishing the Great Wall Walk.
The final day is here!
The whole adventure has flown by but it feels like the team have known each other for a lot longer than a week!
We made the most of the last few hours in Beijing and packed in some awesome experiences. First stop was the Chinese tea house to sample some of China’s delicious teas. We tried Ginseng, Jasmine, Litchi and Puer Black Tea. Our host explained the purpose of the teas and the benefits they have including helping weight loss and supporting healthy kidneys!
Then we took a break from the Chinese food as the whole team opted for a McDonalds for lunch!
We hopped on some Rickshaws next and took a ride around the back lanes of Beijing. Although the team would have liked to race each other they were contained by the narrow streets and the steady rickshaw drivers.
Michael finally gave in to the teams request this afternoon and took them to the silk market for a few hours of shopping and bargain baggin’ It looked like the team well and truly made the most of the deals as they all came out heavily laden with shopping bags full of all sorts of goods.
The final dinner was at a very posh restaurant with chandeliers and velvet chairs. Although we may not have been all dressed up the ambiance was just right for the last meal together. We toasted the adventure and one another for making it through the challenge!
Congratulations to everyone in team LBC for taking on this epic adventure and pushing yourselves both physically and mentally for a brilliant cause. We couldn’t have hoped for a better bunch of people to share this experience with. So many memories have been created and new friends made that will last a lifetime!
“Fantastic experience made even better by the great group of people I experienced it with” Tommy
“It was the best – totally enjoyed every minute – great bunch of people” Joan
“An amazing week, in an amazing country with an unbelievable group of new friends. Awesome!” Dean