Follow Rosemere's Great Wall of China Trek

Dan's Blog

Our return home

We can't believe how quickly our trek has come to an end. It doesn't seem like we've been here for more than a week already. We've done so much in that short period of time from walking up to the highest Watch Tower on the Great Wall, to walking thousands of steps up and down many of the mountains in this beautiful country. Taking in to account our busy final day in Beijing, we've walked well over 70K and don't our legs know it. 

Our flight was at 12.35pm local time, so we had an early rise as we had to be on our bus to the airport by 8am. One by one we all assembled outside our hotel and John our driver carefully loaded our bags. Here we said goodbye to our local guide Ki. He's been an amazing support to the team, making everything run like clockwork, each and everyday. His knowledge and expertise has made this trip so special for each and everyone of us. 

Off we went all waving to Ki on the pavement, in to the chaos that is Beijing's road network. We fought our way through rush hour traffic, cars cutting in and out of lanes, vehicles coming at us from all angles. John safley navigated this chaos and dropped us off at the airport for approximately 9.30am. Unloaded and ready to check in, we thanked John for his efforts and moved in to the terminal to check in. We return to the UK using Lufthansa flying to Munich, before moving on to Manchester. 

We had a couple of final dilemmas. One was to get Gerry's bag on the flight, but she was to go onwards to Stansted from Munich to see family in Norfolk, so her bag couldn't be transported to Manchester without her. The easiest solution was to distribute her bag content between myself, John N, David, Sue & Krishna. I would then repack it on our arrival in Manchester and return it to Gerry on Monday morning. The other was to get our doctor's medical supply bag loaded. At Manchester they let it be loaded at no additional cost as our group combined weight was under our allowance. This wasn't possible here much to our frustration and an additional baggage charges of £200 was incurred. 

Once we were all checked in we said goodbye to Simon our guide. What a guide he has been making our journey an experience of a lifetime. He's kept us together as a team and taken us along parts of the walk you could only ever imagine about as a western tourist. A huge thank you to Simon for everything he has done for Team Rosemere. He continues his travels with a short extension to Japan where he will visit friends in Tokyo and will climb mount Fuji.  

Once we'd navigated passport control and security we moved on to our departure gate. Much to the excitement of the team, we were to fly on the Airbus A380, a double-decker plane. Even economy class was luxurious with amazing service. We departed on time and I started on the first of 4 recently released films on the in-house entertainment system to help pass time during this 9hr flight. 

Upon landing in Munich we said goodbye to Gerry as she had a connecting flight to Stansted leaving in just an hour's time. We weren't so lucky and had a 5hr wait. Much of this time was spent in Duty Free buying gifts for family and friends, calling loved ones who we hadn't spoken to for many days or catching up on social media we hadn't been able to access since setting off on our epic adventure.  

For me it was the opportunity to speak to my wife Sarah and daughters Ebony & Evie who were holidaying for half term in Menorca. I'd kept in touch with them daily via email, but you can't beat speaking to them. They excitedly told me all about their holiday and endless free ice-cream (heaven for a 6 year old). I said my goodbyes to them and made arrangements to collect them from Manchester airport on Saturday. 

By now, everyone was very tired. Our connecting flight was 9.30pm local time, but in China it was now nearly 4am on Friday. Our short flight on to Manchester was packed and a lot less luxurious than the A380. All we wanted to do was get home. The journey passed relatively quickly as many of the team slept. Something they would regret over the weekend ahead as jetlag kicked in. Somehow I managed to power on with my plan of not sleeping until I got home and trying to get straight back in to routine. 

We landed in Manchester at approx 10.45pm BMT and moved reasonably quickly through passport control to reclaim our bags. Everyone had made their own various onward travel arrangements with some sharing taxis and others having family pick them up. We said our final goodbye to our team Doctor, Isla. Her advice on the first day of no double dipping in the food, constant sanitisation of our hands and ongoing support and encouragement  throughout the trip had endured a low key role on the medical front for her, which was music to everyone's ears. 

Everyone shot off in their different directions, leaving me waiting for my mum to collect me. Somehow she'd managed to take a wrong turn twice and had ended up on the M56 Warrington bound, rather than terminal 1 bound. Waiting in the cold wind and rain after a 24hr journey wasn't much fun, but taking the mick out of her on her arrival at 12am made up for it. It was only then I found out she'd only driven twice to Manchester airport over the last 15 years and both times had been in day light. I just appreciated the lift.

I finally arrived back at home 1am BMT on Friday morning after a long detour due to closures on part of the M60 near the Trafford Centre. It was now 8am in China. After putting a load in the washing machine, I jumped in bed to rest my sleepy eyes. 

After 6hrs kip I arose to crack on with my 4 loads of washing. To stop the inevitable tiredness kicking in, I kept myself busy, cleaning the house from top to bottom so I didn't fall in to the temptations of a day time snooze. It was over and back to reality and another trip to Manchester airport tomorrow to collect my family.

I'd like to thank each and every one of 'Team Rosemere' who’ve risen to this amazing challenge and have raised an unbelievable amount of money towards the Rosemere Ribblesdale Ward Appeal. Once all our sponsor monies have been collected I will post on update to the blog. There is still time to donate too towards our monumental efforts…

Thank you to Caroline, Chrissie, David, Dot, Eileen, Gerry, Gillian, Joanna, John F, John N, Leonie, Maria, the Srinivas’s, Sue & Tina for making this trip so special. There are memories for life and I can’t wait to catch up with you all in the near future.

As I sit reminiscing about this amazing adventure, the words ringing in my ears from each and every one of our trekkers was 'Dan, what's our next adventure???'!!! Watch this space I said......

Day 8 - Beijing before home

We had a more relaxed start to the day as our starting point was 8.45 am, with no need to pack bags and leave our rooms as we had one last night in our final hotel. 

Breakfast was an improvement on our previous two, with some donut type pastries, more eggs and sliced bread for toast. 

We all met in the hotel foyer before being briefed for our day ahead, which was to be jam packed with activities. First port of call was the world renowned Tiananmen Square, scene of various historical events since it's inception in the early 1950's. Surrounding the square was the Chinese equivalent of the Houses of Parliament and the National Chinese Museum. It was so, so busy with tens of thousands of visitors, many of them nationals. The square itself can hold up to 1 million people due to its vastness. 

Palace Museum  Beijing Day 8

We then moved on to the Forbidden City, an intricate and colourful walled city formerly resided by Emperor's. The team were given time to explore the beautiful surroundings before moving on to our next activity. When visiting the toilets, I turned to be greeted by approximately 10 men in black suits and white shirts surrounding an elderly gentleman and was asked to swiftly vacate the facility. On exiting the toilets there were a further 15+ gentleman. It turned out they were body guards for the Mauritius Prime Minister. We were now rubbing shoulders with the major movers if the Far East. 

The Forbidden City was so, so busy and a complete contrast to our starting point of our journey in a little village in the mountains, far away from tourist mayhem. 

Beijing travelling by RicksawOur next port of call was a local Hutong, a complete contrast to the hussle and bussle of the major tourist areas. A Hutong was where the original Mongolian settlers lived when they first moved to Beijing. The area up until recently was under risk of demolition due to its dilapidated state. It is now under protection and being gentrified and is a hugely popular place to live. Even though we were only 500 m from the main arterial routes it was an area of peace and tranquility. We were taken by Rickshaws to a local house where we ate lunch.

Day 8 Lunch stop After a brief history of the area by a local humorous guide, we jumped back on the Rickshaws to visit another two historical landmarks. The first was the Mongolian Bell Tower which was located in close proximity to the Chinese Drum Tower.

Our next stop was the world famous Pearl Market where shopping and bartering go hand in hand. Everyone spread to cover all 5 floors in the hour we were allocated. With gifts in hand, we jumped on a local bus to return to our hotel. 

We had a 20 minute turnaround before our next entertainment. I managed to squeeze in a shower and a change of clothes. We then marched on to a local acrobatic performance in a show hall a 30 minute walk away. Not sure what to expect, we were enthralled by a variety of performances, with the grand finale being a sphere with first one motorbike flying around it at all angles, quickly followed by two, three, four, five and finally six motorbikes deftying gravity and really zooming around the sphere at amazing speed. We stood to our feet to give our applause and were amazed when the locals just stood up and walked off without showing their appreciation at the grand finale. 

We jumped on another local bus to return to our hotel. Another quick turnaround ensued before leaving for our final meal. We set off to a Mongolian meat restaurant called Kaorouliu, a real favourite with locals. 

Beijing Day 8   Beijing Day 8

We couldn't do this without saying goodbye to two of our team. Our Rosemere Big Brother announcer Gillian and her friend Chrissie. They are extending their stay and off on the night train to see the Terracotta Warriors. 

The restaurant had open coal grills where we cooked our own food. Let's hope we've done a good job as we've got a long journey home tomorrow....

We're all gutted our journey is nearly over, but we can't wait to see our nearest and dearest to tell them all about our amazing adventure. There's been sweat and tears, but the main thing is, is that thousands have been raised to support local cancer patients in Lancashire & South Cumbria. 

There'll be at least one more installment to the blog once we arrive home. We're due in to Manchester at 11pm on Thursday. 

Day 7 - Our final walk then into Beijing

Day 7 View Today we had an early start with bags on the bus by 7.30 am before breakfast. The sky was a beautiful blue with no smog or haze to hamper our views and photographic opportunities. 

 

After another random breakfast we jumped on to the coach and set off on a very brief journey to the wall. This would be our final morning on the wall and we would cover the Mutianyu section. This section is very popular with tourists from both the West and the Far East. We arrived early to avoid the masses, but to reach the summit, we had to scale the 1000 steps. We had a brief stop at the half way point to remove layers before marching on to the summit in no time at all. 

Group with Champagne on Day 7 Here we were greeted by Ki and two bottles of champagne to celebrate our amazing achievements over the past few days!! Time for a group mug shot and toast before we were given time to explore further along the wall before our rendezvous at 12 noon. The sky was beautifully clear and helicopters darted about filming and taking photos of the wall for future marketing purposes due to the amazing clarity in the sky. The views were again spectacular and we all snapped away too.

 

Day 7 View Day 7 Watchtower

Little groups each went in their own directions before deciding which option to decend to the bottom. There were cable cars, the famous toboggans or simply walking back down. The majority of the team went for the toboggans, speeding back down to the start.

Day 6 Wall map

We then got our first taste of western food for some time with a Subway lunch to keep us on until our celebration meal later in the day.

Day 7 Walkers on the Wall

We met with our coach and started our journey towards Beijing, the capital of China. It is now officially the same size as Belgium with a population of over 21m people. We have literally travelled from one extreme to the other. Being out in the rural mountains to one of the busiest cities in the world. 

As we arrived in Beijing, we paid a visit to a local Silk Factory and saw how silk duvets and other silk attire is made. After a visit to the factory shop, several items were purchased by various members of the team, including pillows, scarves and PJs. 

We moved on to our final hotel, where we spend our last two nights. With a couple of hours to spare, some of us went for a wander and visited a local coffee shop. If you thought travelling through London was chaotic, try Beijing. Nobody seems to pay any attention to traffic lights, road signs or regulations, making any journey a treacherous one. 

We arrived back at the hotel for a quick shower before setting off to one of our final gatherings, our celebration meal including the local delicacy of Peking Duck. We entered our private dining area and enjoyed an array of delights. Simon & Ki then did a short thank you to everyone involved in this amazing experience before Simon presented our team gift to Ki and our driver John. Then it was my turn to address the audience and thank them for their amazing support and fundraising for Rosemere. We think we've already raised in excess of £20,000 as a team, but still want to raise even more, so donate now if you haven't already done so!

Group in T-shirts

What an unbelievable time we have all had together. We've literally walked over mountains for 7 days solid covering over 60K in the process. Before proceedings finished, the team had the pleasure of thanking Simon our guide and Isla our doctor for making this trip such an wonderful experience and presented them with gifts from the silk factory. 

I can't believe we only have one day left on our journey...  

Group photo

 

Day 6 Part 2 - Encounter with a critter and other things!

Critter under the bed After freshing up I started to make my way to the restaurant for our 6 45pm rendezvous. I'd just left my room and was swiftly accosted by Sue & Dot who had fear in their eyes. They'd found a critter on their wall with multiple legs and wanted it catching and removing. I attempted to knock it in to a glass, but it was too quick and scuttled off under Dots bed. Qué, David & John who flew through the door to help. We dragged the bed out of the way and David, fleet of foot squished the bug against the wall with his right boot before scraping it up and chucking it out of the door much to Dot and Sue's relief.

Chop Stick Challenge

We wandered down to tea in the hotel restaurant and was shown to our dining area. Tonight was quiz night and as soon as we'd finished eating we huddled together in 4 teams. 3 or 4 and one of 5, with Simon our quiz master and Isla our adjudicator. The topic was China and our subjects ranged from Geography and History to current affairs and the chop sticks challenge. The most hilarious round was the music round, where we had to make our own trek theme tune and perform it to the audience. The winner of this round was Mr & Mrs S's team with a Bollywood themed dance performed by John F & Krishna and lyrics by Jeyeram & Leoine. 

The stakes were high and rivalries fierce, with every round a nail biting process. Final scores were counted and our over all winners were Szechuan Nuhai aka Spice Girls. Their prize being a bottle of local Fire Water spirit. This is to be shared at the summit of tomorrow's walk before we chose our various routes to the bottom (more to follow tomorrow on that).

With the team bond as close as ever and the restaurant now empty, Simon hooked up his speaker and played numerous tunes on request. With the ladies in their element and the men sat by watching (not stereotypical at all), good fun was had by all. There was even time for a dance off between Gerry and Krishna. 

We then retired to our rooms for an early start in the morning.

Day 6 - Day of the Steps

For the first time on the trip, we stayed in the same hotel once again in Watertown. At breakfast we were greeted by the rather bland dumplings again, so many of the team decided to eat their own supplies of flap jack, biscuits and chocolate in preparation for the day ahead and boy were they needed. 

Day6 Great Wall Photo We met in the foyer once again at 8.45 am and quickly transferred on to the coach with all our kit, one by one. Off we set for our latest meeting with the Great Wall. Little did we know what lay ahead. 

It wasn't long before we arrived at out starting point for our usual warm up, this time taken by our Doctor, Isla. Fun was had by everyone as we loosened up and stretched out. 

Simon our guide gathered us and led from the front up a long, winding and steep foot path to the wall above us. His pace once again was excellent, enabling everyone to stay as a group without becoming breathless or overly warm. There were a couple of brief pauses to remove layers of clothing as our body temperatures rose, before we reached out initial summit, one of the many watch towers we could see in the distance yesterday. 

Day 6 Great Wall Photo Today's route can be seen for miles around as it runs up and down the spine of the mountain. We turned right and followed a refurbished part of the wall and this is where the real challenge began. 

We began with an initial decline, before quickly climbing steeply. This pattern continued for some time, being greeted by staircases of steps that seemed to reach in to the sky. What goes up, must come down and the downs were even more dramatic than the ups. It was certainly not a day for the faint hearted, with huge drops on either side of us at various points. At times it felt like we were climbing a mountain face and then sliding back down the other side. 

 

 

Day 6 Great Wall Photo

 

Along this section we arrived at East Five Eye Tower, the highest watchtower on the Great Wall at 618 metres above sea level. It certainly wasn't a place for anyone with vertigo. 

Initially the smog and haze had reduced visibility and made photography difficult, but as the morning wore on, visibility improved and the sun shone. 

A couple of watch towers before we moved away from the wall enabled some of our trekkers to take in the scenery and return to the foot of the mountain via a cable car with spectacular views. The rest of the troops marched on before we finally made it to our final watch tower to connect with one of the many link paths back to the bottom of the valley. At this point we were met by a large group of school children on an educational trip. They were so pleasant, polite and friendly to all of us. On the path down, there weren't as many steps as on the wall and they were much more even, but it was still some distance to our rendezvous point at the bottom. 

Today was one of our shorter treks at just less than 10K, but it was certainly our hardest and most spectacular. The team showed great determination and spirit today and have worked extremely hard for every penny of sponsorship they have raised. If you haven't already sponsored us, get on one of our Just Giving pages and do so. This team is amazing and doing Rosemere proud!!

Day 6 Great Wall Photo At the foot of the mountain we were short on time, so our guide Simon arranged for some shuttle type golf buggies to run us to our lunch stop for the day. They didn't mess about and had us racing to the bottom. 

Everyone had certainly built up their appetite with rumbling tummies all around as we arrived for lunch at 2pm. It turned out to be our best feed to date, with some amazing dishes. Particularly popular were the salt and pepper chips and the spicy chicken noodles. Not a morsal of food was left as we decended on our coach for the 2hr + journey to our next location, Mutianyu. Tonight we stay in accommodation purposely built for those that built the Olympic park for the amazing Beijing Olympics in 2008. 

East Five-window Tower During the journey, we had a whip around for our local guide and driver who have been fantastic and made this trip do special. They will be presented with their well earned tip during our celebration evening tomorrow night.

We arrived at 5pm and shot off to our various rooms. Everyone is paired up, but as we have an odd number, I'm the lucky one with my own room. With tea at 7pm, a quick unpacking of items required for this evening was followed by a shower to freshen up. 

Part 2 to follow after our evening meal and quiz.........

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