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  • Homeward bound

    by Megan Sparrey | Oct 22, 2017
    Today was a free day for us to explore Beijing.

    Picking our bargains from a fab shop

    This morning we set off and experienced the Chinese subway to get to the Pearl Market where we could shop for bargain electronics, cashmere, designer clothes and handbags, souvenirs and more! At every single stall assistants were frantically trying to get our attention asking us to purchase their items and offering discounted prices.

    serious haggling

    so many bags so little time

    It was a very intense atmosphere, but an interesting experience and we practised our haggling skills in order to get some fantastic deals! In the afternoon some people split off to do their own things visiting art exhibitions, more shopping and grabbing some food before we headed off to the airport.

    getting on the coach airport bound

    On the coach to the airport, one by one, the team each went through our favourite highlights of the trip so far. These included overcoming some difficult days, meeting each other and building friendships, watching the support given to one another, some funny moments and stories, meeting our wonderful Chinese Guide and generally taking on a once in a lifetime challenge for the hospice.

    Saying goodbye to our guide

    England, here we come

    As we board the plane we take fond memories home with us and ones that will stay with us and keep us connected for a lifetime. Its been an incredible journey where words will not quite be able to ever describe what we achieved together, the individual feelings and mix of emotions.

    Next stop - Home.
  • What an adventure!

    by Megan Sparrey | Oct 21, 2017
    Its our penultimate day here in Beijing and today we were treated to a visit to The Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square after our 5 day trek.

    tianamen square

    tianamen gate

























    As the National Conference is currently taking place, a lot of important political representatives are gathering in the city, and  there are thousands of people visiting to catch a glimpse of them. We were lucky enough to be there to see all this.

    celebrity

    Tiananmen Square was incredible and right in the heart of the city. We had our picture taken right in the centre and headed through the Tiananmen Gate before entering the Forbidden City. Our guide Charles gave lots of information about its history and showed us all of the best photo opportunities.

    aerial shot

    After a lovely lunch with dumplings and steamed buns, we went to see an acrobatics show with some mesmerising acts including an act which had 6 motorbikes inside a giant mesh-metal sphere criss-crossing upside down!

    tianamen square no group

    After that we went for our final dinner together at the popular Peking Duck Restaurant and had our own Oscar style award ceremony for achievements throughout our journey over the last week.

    lauren and megan

    our last feast together

    We finished off with a couple of cheeky beers in a Chinese bar,  playing country music and decked out in a style that was China's answer to a honky-tonk!


    group feast
  • Final day of trekking - what a fantastic experience!

    by Megan Sparrey | Oct 20, 2017
    Our final day trekking.

    What a day.

    can you see them in the bushes

    Another hike up to the wall meant another steep route up and up and up! Today we took a stoney pathway from our guesthouse up through the forest and woodland area. This had a lot of overgrown debris and bushes as well as sharp plants scratching our legs and arms.

    going up

    We also climbed up and over huge boulders to continue on route until we finally reached the wall 50 minutes later!

    through the undergrowth

    Here we reached a spot with the most beautiful views overlooking the lake. The section of the wall climbed today was back in Simatai. It was full of overgrown bushes and branches which looked so out of place, overgrown and winding up through cracks and damaged parts of the wall, blocking our pathway. Today we did some of the toughest uphill climbing of the week where we had to use our hips to lean forward and face the floor as we climbed to keep balance.

    flat rocks



    amazing views over the wall

    As some of these non-step pathways were also on our journey back down, many people found themselves on their bottoms again scooting down, afraid of slipping and falling!!

    We also encountered a long consistant number of uneven steps, uneven rubble pathways and narrow 3ft wide walkways. As we reached the highest watch tower, 550m high, we had a moment to reflect on our journey this week and give everyone a hug!

    rocks!

    seeing the wall from below

    From there we followed the route back down and off the wall back to the main road were we stopped off to have a celebratory beer and cheers on what has been a fantastic week! Both hugs and tears were shared and everyone is so grateful to have shared this tough and emotional journey together!

    sharon and Lauren

    Next stop Beijing.

    After another 3 hour minibus journey we are back at our hotel in Beijing ready for a nice long shower to freshen up, pack all our walking gear away and smarten up before heading out for a late night supper!

    beer o clock

    Its been an incredible 5 days and we certainly will in no doubt sleep well tonight!!

    Pheww!
  • It was a joy to see sunshine this morning!

    by Megan Sparrey | Oct 19, 2017
    It was a joy to see sunshine this morning!

    in a line on the wall

    We headed straight off on the minibus on a 2 hour journey to Mutianyu for a different and more touristy experience trekking the Great Wall. As you can imagine it was a very busy attraction drawing people in from China and all over the world.
    great wall grafeti


    we woz ere


    When we arrived some of the team decided to check out the chairlift to reach the wall and get a different view of the wall mid air while the remaining members of the group trekked to the top.


    cable car


    It was much different from being so secluded and quiet on the previous days trekking.

    As you can see in our photos the pathways and steps on the wall connect to watch towers. Our challenge today saw us pass 14 watch towers to reach watch tower number 24 where we had to climb a consistent number of steps for about 300m metres. This seemed impossible as we saw it in the distance, but each member of the team fought their way to the top, some singing away to Oasis-Wonderwall, attracting the attention of the amused locals!

    steps looking down

    The views from the top were so spectacular and we could see way back to where we had started with all the tough winding uphill sections of the wall leading us up to to tower 24. We retuned back to our starting point another 14 watch towers back mainly trekking downhill which put added pressure onto our knees after a tiring push upwards on the way there. The sun was setting and we enjoyed the trek back in small groups discussing todays achievements.

    steps looking up

    up up up

    As we arrived back to the first point on the wall, we then chose to either take the steps back down to base or tobogganing to the bottom. And wow, tobogganing was so much fun! It was absolutely fantastic controlling your own plastic sled on wheels down a metal slide to the bottom to go as fast or slow as you like and take in more wonderful views out into the distance.

    tobogan

    feet first

    It was a well deserved treat after another testing day of trekking!!
  • The adventure continues as the mist comes down in this wonderful country

    by Megan Sparrey | Oct 18, 2017
    In contrast to days 1 and 2, today we woke up to rain and mist which pretty much followed us throughout the day making our challenges even more tricky.

    backpack

    long line going up

    This morning we set off at 9.30am to Simatai to begin our exhilarating half day trek up a small mountain to reach a remote watch tower on the Great Wall. It was by far our most difficult individual challenge yet, but also without a doubt the most fulfilling and enjoyable part of our journey so far.

    in the treeline

    We battled natural obstacles scrambling up and down large boulders, steep slippery slopes and uneven naturally formed stoned steps as well as being obstructed by sharp and prickly overgrown trees and debris as well as having to really focus not slipping up on all the mud surrounding us!

    rock scrambling

    misty woodland shot

    This morning definitely challenged us mentally, physically and emotionally and everyone used all their courage and strength to push on through despite many moments slipping and sliding on bottoms!

    muddy bums

    After lunch we took a short bus ride to complete another section of the wall in Gubeikou, which was very testing after our extremely tough morning. We ascended to the wall up a long winding pushing our leg muscles to the maximum. Our route took us along one of the oldest parts of the wall with pathway sections that were built at 8ft wide and now stand at 3ft wide due to severe erosion.

    You can imagine how frightening this was for our team who have phobias of heights! We eventually reached the remains of a 24 window, 2-storey home where soldiers used to live.

    misty team photo

    misty wall from a distance

    This section of the wall really showed rich history of what the wall has to offer. We made a steady descent and headed on to our new guesthouse for the night, warmed up with a shower and delicious food before another competitive round of card games before heading off to bed.

    up up treeline

    Goodnight!
  • The word steep doesn't do today justice

    by Megan Sparrey | Oct 17, 2017
    going down the steps hand in handThis morning we travelled to Jinshanling to complete a days trek of a restored section of the wall. In order to reach our starting point on the wall at the Eastern 5 Window Tower, we climbed an incredible 1,385m of very steep stone steps winding upwards into the woodland forest beneath the wall.

    downward shot onto the wall

    going up smooth pavements

    This certainly warmed us up ready for another 4 hours of tough trekking! Upon arriving at the tower we used the opportunity to take in the beautiful views of the wall trailing off into the distance. Nobody could have been prepared for what was to come! Todays trek was challenging in every single way!

    sharon and Lauren


    going up with walls either side

    Those with fears of heights were faced against some of the most difficult narrow steep steps with little support to hold them up. We were challenged against steep uphill and downhill climbs testing our core balance and agility while trekking along uneven pathways and randomly paved steps.

    group up and down the steps

    This was an extremely difficult day and by no surprise, the whole team have been aching severely this evening! Time to rest up and build up some more strength and energy for tomorrow!

    they made it to the bottom

    *Special thanks to Emma Cook for massaging the whole teams calf muscles with a single bottle of water to loosen us up!

    massage from Emma after the climb
  • Day one trekking

    by Megan Sparrey | Oct 16, 2017

    This morning we woke up in the heart of Beijing to the same sounds we fell asleep to - traffic.

    We took a 3 hour journey to our hostel stopping off at services on the way where many local people commented on 'the westerners wearing shorts and t-shirts'. Translated for us, we also found out that they liked our 'large noses'! Charming! They took pictures of us and we headed on our way.
    hole in the wall

    We arrived at a lovely hostel close to where our trek was due to begin, dropped our bags off and headed out to a local restaurant for lunch so we were well 'fuelled up' for the challenge ahead.

    group by plaque

    As we arrived to begin our trek, we were stopped by state police on patrol as many important politicians will be visiting in the next couple of weeks, therefore our section on day 1 was cornered off unable for us to trek. So off we went on a new route...

    wall walk zig zag

    Hewitt Help

    We trekked for over 3 hours today which was tough and gave us a good insight into what we will be facing in the days to come. We walked on the old unrestored section of the wall as well as alongside it including uneven steps varying in size, stony extremely narrow pathways alongside a very steep hillside as well as climbing the watch towers to witness some of the most beautiful views. The Great wall winds all the way off into the distance.

    wall from afar - no people

    Back at the hotel we've enjoyed a nice meal and some drinks. Everyone has done extremely well on day 1 and we are still smiling. We are looking forward to what is in store for the rest of the week.

    It's late here now, so night night!

    group with wall in distance

     

     

  • Arriving in Beijing

    by Megan Sparrey | Oct 15, 2017

    15th October

    We're here!

    beijing airport 15 oct

    Today we arrived in China at 3pm local time after a long 15 hours of travelling and far too much plane food! We were greeted at Beijing airport by our local tour guide, Charles, who will be leading the trek for us throughout the week. 

    china food 15 oct

    He will also be letting us in on all the unknown and hidden facts about the Great Wall which make it such a fascinating piece of history.

    It was a little gloomy outside as we arrived, however it looks like we will have much brighter weather as we start our trek tomorrow.

    We have settled down into out hotel in Beijing, freshened up and enjoyed our first dinner together experiencing our first taste of delicious traditional chinese food!

    hotel 15 oct

    Everyone is in high spirits and now we are looking forward to a good nights rest before the hard work begins tomorrow!

     
  • And they're off!

    by Megan Sparrey | Oct 14, 2017
    airport group

    The team has assembled and the time has finally arrived for us to board the flight to China! Everyone is extremely excited and anxious for our adventure to begin!

    airport cheers

    We were there super early as we were nervous and excited, so we toasted our adventure to come.



    Team Isabel are ready and waiting.aiport group pub
  • China Challenge - Bags Packed!

    by Megan Sparrey | Oct 13, 2017

    Training complete. Visas stamped. All packed and ready to go! After many many months of fantastic fundraising, our team of twelve trekkers are counting down the hours until take-off, and everyone is extremely excited to take on the Great Wall of China.

    The weather is looking good, so hopefully the ponchos can stay packed away as  we conquer our gruelling 5 day trek.

    We will be posting the details of our challenge along the way. The next post will be from Heathrow airport! Wish us luck! 

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