Our minds play crazy tricks on us sometimes. Sometimes its justified and sometimes it’s not. My biggest fear before we left for walking the Great Wall, was that I would not be able to climb the hills that would enable me to even get on the Wall!! So overcome that I had to do!! But it wasn’t easy. Those master builders of all those years ago had plans to stop anyone getting there.
Hiking through jungle was one of the tests, not just a little way, but an hour, in the heat and humidity with various flying bugs about. On one memorable day, our bus dropped us at the side of the road. Innocently, we all thought we would walk along the track in front and climb an easy climb… oh no. Our guide Oliver, jumped off the bus and proceeded to disappear up the vertical mud and rock bank beside us!! Puffing and panting, and scrabbling along we followed, on our hands and knees over rocks until we came to the side of the wall where we climbed steps through into the centre and hoisted ourselves up. My favourite one, which still makes me laugh at the horror of it was an easy looking ascent, starting with some little steps… but they went on and on, and on, and on and on… My call of “and there’s more!” ringing in the ears of those following! I have a feeling my trekking pals behind me wanted to wring my neck after half an hour! A kilometre later we reached the top. We had climbed nearly a mile vertically up the side of the mountain.
Sometimes life throws you the most bizarre things, you work hard, think you will never make it then all of a sudden you are rewarded. At the top of that kilometre of steps, was, for me, the most incredible view of the week. The Wall stretched for miles and miles away from us across the ridge of the hills, on and on into the distance as far as we could see. I will never forget that view, it was magnificent.
The thing I have found out about physical exertion is that when it is continuous and a little bit extreme, your body and mind start playing with you. Having given a couple of people hugs on previous days, I suddenly found that I was having a day full of tears. Where they came from I have no idea - I’m a positive person. But one day I just wanted to cry all the time, so it was my turn to get the hugs. It was a real eye- opener that the team was there for you when you needed it. We grew stronger as a group as time went on. On the last day, someone said to me, “if they were told they had to walk for another 6 days they would have done it” I knew exactly what they meant. When we finally came off the wall at the end, I felt like I had lost a friend. That solid thing, made of stones and some sticky rice (Yes they really did use sticky rice in its construction) had got into my soul. I came off the Wall a different person from the person that had stepped onto it, worried, nervous and scared. I might still not be the fittest person in the group, and I never will be, but I don’t care anymore. I have got the trekking bug, I now do a trekking holidays on my own every year, I go for walks and hunt out the hills, I long for an adventure and book up treks with excitement and enthusiasm.
We came off the Wall and went back to Beijing, we were lucky enough to have a tour about the city the next day. What an amazing place. I can’t say it is my favourite city but I’m glad I’ve seen it. I now know what it feels like to be a film star, as In Tiananmen Square we were accosted by dozens of Chinese people all wanting their photo taken with us – they just went on marching up to us, standing beside us and the click, click of cameras and phones was continual – I hope they liked their pictures of their smiling faces and our slightly bemused ones, as we wondered why on earth they wanted pictures of us!! The art work of the Chinese is incredible; beautiful pictures and pieces of art are everywhere. We visited out favourite restaurant again and there were tears when we left for home.
And so we left for the flight home – someone remarked how we had puffed along -
lugging our bags on arrival and now walked out a whole lot fitter than when we
started – our expedition leader was right, you do get walking fit!
There is so much more trekking to come now – life is for living, it’s scary, but it’s
amazing – and I’m hooked.
Guest Blogger - Annie Davidson