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The Wallflowers: 'We climbed The Great Wall!'

Susan of The Wallflowers:

After all those months of planning, fundraising and grueling training, Elaine and I, together with the other Thames Hospice China Trekkers, set off for Beijing on 28 October, to trek The Great Wall of China. To be honest, none of us were really prepared for the extent of the challenge, the breathtaking beauty of the scenery, and the very different culture we were about to encounter.

Our first experience of The Great Wall was at Simatai, where the Wall runs almost vertically up into the mountains. Making our way up the countless steps, we got our first real view of the Wall as it snaked across the surrounding countryside. Actually finding myself on the Wall for the first time was an experience I will never forget. Over the next four days we tackled unrestored sections of the Wall, featuring narrow walkways with sheer drops on either side, steep ascents and perilous pathways back down to the valleys below; as well as the just reopened, and possibly most beautiful part of the Great Wall at Jinshanling. Even where the Wall has been restored, the climbs are crazily vertical and the descents just as dizzily terrifying.

Elaine and I both found the steep vertical climbs (some without steps) and descents physically challenging and at times scary, but we were determined to keep going however exhausted we felt. I think the adrenalin kicked in and, although I would not describe myself as competitive, I found I was determined to keep going. We all helped and supported each other along the way – I am not sure I would have got through it if it wasn’t for the encouragement and sheer positive energy provided by the rest of the group (plus the sharing of many snack bars!).

We were lucky to be in the hands of the ever-patient Penny, our tour manager, and Luis - our stoic and ever-helpful Chinese guide. Staying in local hostels along the way, we enjoyed great hospitality and got to taste a variety of traditional Chinese dishes.

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 and supported each other, we discovered our own inner strengths and forged enduring friendships.

It’s an experience we certainly won’t forget, and Elaine and I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who generously supported us and helped us reach our target for the amazing cause that is Thames Hospice.

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