Team China Trek traversed perilous pathways and sheer drops to raise more than £50k for Thames Hospice.
On Saturday 28 October, 14 intrepid fundraisers set off from London Heathrow Airport for Beijing on an unforgettable walk across the Great Wall of China. Organised by the Fundraising Team at Thames Hospice, and led by the Hospice's Head of Community and Events, Alison Evans, the five-day Trek saw supporters facing their fears for a cause very close to their hearts.
Here we share some of their accounts from the incredible trip.
"We all had different reasons for taking on this challenge. It was by no means just a physical journey. I think we'd all agree that as we faced our fears, overcame setbacks, supported each other and worked together to complete the trek, we discovered our own inner strengths and forged enduring friendships. It's an experience none of us will forget, and we'd like to thank everyone who generously supported us along the way. Best of all we raised way beyond the fundraising target for the trip, ensuring as much money as possible goes to Thames Hospice."
"For me, the Thames Hospice trek started after it was mentioned at an evening out with friends. My friend and I agreed it would be an amazing experience for a cause that is close to our hearts. We signed up the next day and so the six months of fundraising started then Saturday October 28th arrived and we were meeting the rest of our team at Heathrow!
"Once we arrived in China we were given the itinerary and so all the months of training were now going to be put into action. Monday 30th was our first walk and with great team spirit we set off - what amazing views. The next four days were met with great enthusiasm and determination - even by the injured and those with a fear of heights - and every evening we felt a fantastic sense of achievement. Thank you to Thames Hospice and the people that sponsored us."
"It was a privilege for me to be part of such a wonderful group of people. I think all of us having the same mission of helping Thames Hospice created a great spirit, with everyone helping each other at different times.
"A highlight for me was the climb to Wangjianglou Tower near Jinshanling - I wasn't expecting rock climbing to be part of the trek but it was exhilarating. It was fantastic that each section of the Wall we tackled was so different, and I will always remember the breathtaking views as the Wall snaked away into the vastness of China. Walking from Gubieko Guesthouse past the temple to then see the 'crouching tiger' mountain before us was a magical experience. As well as the Wall itself, the many towers made a great impression as I thought of the thousands of workers involved in creating the timeless structures.
"Of the places we stayed in, I will always remember the Gubieko Guesthouse. It was great staying in a very traditional family home, and the owner was amazing fun as he communicated by laughing and joining in our revelry!
"A feature of the trip that worked well for me was the contrast between the Wall days and staying in vibrant Beijing. In Beijing I particularly enjoyed the Acrobat Show (just stunning) and the sheer grandeur and size of Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven gate. I enjoyed the communal eating experience of authentic Chinese food throughout the trip, and the dumplings were interesting! Finally, I think the Karfar Bar provided a fitting finale - everyone sharing cocktails and karaoke to celebrate our achievement."
"The most memorable thing about the trek for me, was the way the group gelled together almost immediately - I guess due to us all having a common cause and shared ethos. It was actually a privilege to have the opportunity to spend so much time on the Wall in perfect conditions - the views were quite outstanding and never to be forgotten. Individually, I guess the ascent to the High Tower was special and a unique opportunity to test out my fitness, and so great to accomplish the climb with such super companions."
"The Thames Hospice China Trek for me was the best experience of my life. From the very first day the scenery was breathtaking and it just got better each day.
"The people I walked/lived with for the week also made it for me. There was great diversity in the team, with people from all walks of life. We all came together to share the experience and had belly laughs all week on the Wall and socializing together in the evening.
"So to summarise, I would say the experience in China was one that will live with me forever. I have met new friends that I believe I will always keep in contact with and we have collectively raised thousands of pounds for Thames Hospice - which was of course the main aim of the walk. I will also keep in touch with the charity and volunteer to help with fundraisers whenever I am available."
"Considering that we visited the Great Wall right at the end of October/early November, we were incredibly lucky with the weather; we had bright sunshine every day while trekking and even Beijing was sunny through the slight smog haze.
"It was quite chilly for our early morning starts, but once we started our climb up to the Wall, we were very quickly shedding layers as the sun and our own exertions warmed us up. As can be seen from the photos, the sky was a brilliant blue with the odd cloud making the fabulous views even more magnificent!
"On our final day on the Wall, the wind got up and, while we were navigating a particularly narrow section with sheer drops either side and strong gusts of wind by then I'd thought I was a brave(ish), intrepid trekker, but that made my heart skip a beat or two!
"With all the lead up to the trek fundraising, training, applying for visas, getting kitted out etc. somehow travelling to China and actually walking on the Great Wall didn't seem real. Even when we arrived in China, had a briefing from our guide and set off in all our gear, backpacks stuffed to the gunnels with goodness knows what, it still didn't totally sink in what was ahead of us. Eventually, we had our first view of the Wall and commenced a long climb to reach it; stopping regularly to try to take in the immensity of what was ahead of us. Actually stepping onto The Great Wall for the first time was the most A-maz-ing (as Craig Revel Horwood would say) experience possible. I don't really have the words to express how it felt, but it was something I would not have missed for the world, and to share it with such a great bunch of people made it even more special.