Thursday, 23 July 2009

Great Wall of China - June 07-15, 2002. Day 5 - First hairwash for Beccy & another full day on The Great Wall

Above: Tuesday June 11, 2002 - Beccy's hair and body wash Great Wall of China style, i.e. "Al Fresco"! The Great Wall we had scaled the day before is in the distance.

Above: Beccy's hand drawn diagram of our first two nights camp site. We were in camp site 2.

Extract from Beccy's diary Tuesday June 11, 2002:-

We were moving camp today so we had to re-pack all our stuff which was an achievement in itself as our luggage seemed to expand over night in the moist tent. I woke after having a few more hours sleep than I did the night before as I was getting braver and was not bursting to go to the toilet. I must be getting used to this camping lark!

Chris Dunkerton (Stokesley 1127 Round Table) or 'Chubby' as we affectionately knew him, went to go to the toilet which had been erected on the first night. It was in fact a hole dug in the ground with four small sticks supporting a toilet seat and a couple of sheets wrapped around for modesty purposes. As it had rained again over night, the ground was particularly soft. As he entered the area and placed his backside onto the seat, the entire toilet collapsed and he fell backwards into a crumpled heap as well as into the hole in the ground which had already been filled up nicely by fellow campers. I absolutely cried with laughter at his misfortune!

I helped Beccy wash her hair by pouring 2 lots of freezing cold water over her shampooed head. It woke her up a bit and made her feel a lot better. We had Chinese tea and melon for breakfast, followed by a load of pain killers for me, fitted my ankle support, collected our five course lunch box, and headed off for our second day's trekking on The Great Wall, amid many grumbles from fellow campers because apparently I had kept them awake by snoring all night! I hadn't heard anything so was not sure what all the fuss was about.

The first mile or so was in the same direction as the previous day, then we headed off left as opposed to straight on/right the previous day. We were on the wall much sooner, and to be on it for such a prolonged period of time, was amazing. The day before we had crossed over it, and not actually been on it for that long. Today, we were on it for most of the day.

We were trekking on the old parts of the wall today, parts which in places were in a bad state of decay, and had sheer drops of hundreds of feet either side, and only a couple of feet wide to walk on. One gust of wind and we could have been off! There were also some very steep parts which had steps which were hardly built to British Standards! One step would be about 150mm deep, the next 1.5 Metres which you had to physically climb up, then no steps at all, just flat. It was amazing. At one particularly steep area, Beccy had to help Graham Lovelock (Leighton Buzzard Round Table) who suffered from Vertigo. He went behind Beccy with his peaked cap down, just looking at the back of her heels. The view across the mountains was simply stunning and not something you could put into words. You just needed to be there to see it for yourself.

We stopped for lunch inside one of the turrets on The Great Wall (pictured above behind us). We were constantly being hounded by Chinese people who wanted to sell us T-shirts, postcards and books just like the day before. It did get very annoying as they would help you up a steep step, then expect you to buy something from them or pay them for helping you. We found that if you completely ignored them, they didn't know what to do and eventually left you alone.

Above: A photo shoot for the sponsors. I had raised most of my money for the trip by getting corporate sponsors to pay for adverts on the back of our T-Shirts.

Andrea Forrest from Wales was finding it very difficult today as her legs were very stiff from the previous day. The previous day, she was awarded the "Bunny Ears" cap by Andrea and Cara which she had to wear all day for announcing to the group "Please feel free to manhandle me". I have no idea why she said that! I managed OK again all day with my two walking poles even though I was in constant pain with my ankle. The Chinese Doctor and a guide called Ella travelled at the back of the group and kept me supplied with painkillers.

On a part of the wall that had been re-constructed, we found a souvenir shop and a proper toilet! It was not that pleasant, but better than four sticks and a toilet seat! Beccy and I bought two medals which said "We walked The Great Wall of China" on them. Scottish Jimmy, who had previously been awarded the bunny ears cap for wearing a kilt while trekking in traditional Scottish manner, and Scottish Dave (affectionately known as Saddam and who also constantly reminded me of my cousin Hans Hopfensperger in Pentling, Germany) pulled out the Scottish flag, and sung the following little ditty as loud as possible:-

O flower of Scotland
When will we see
Your like again
That fought and died for
Your wee bit hill and glen
And stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

The hills are bare now
And autumn leaves lie thick and still
O'er land that is lost now
Which those so dearly held
And stood against him Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

Those days are passed now
And in the past they must remain
But we can still rise now
And be the nation again
That stood against him
Proud Edward's army
And sent him homeward
Tae think again

We continued on our way, The Flower of Scotland still ringing in our ears, trekked down the mountain and into another small Chinese village where we would be camping for the night. The camp was in the middle of the village, which was larger than the previous two nights village. There were about 5 houses there and the people did seem very poor.

Above: Beccy's hand drawn sketch of camp 2 on day five of our Great Wall of China experience.

The camp itself had been setup in two places which had a field separating them. The tents had been setup already on two raised terraces, and the main tent was outside the main house in the village where our evening meal was being prepared. Beccy grabbed a beer and got a tent. Most of them had gone very quickly as no one wanted to sleep near me because of my snoring! Beccy setup camp, blew up the beds and got the sleeping bags organised.

As soon as we had changed and got ready for the evenings activities, the Chinese Doctor flagged me down so that we could go through the "setting fire to the leg and massaging it until I screamed in agony" routine again as per the previous day. This time it was outside so the screaming could dissipate into to vast openness of the Chinese skies. As I sat there, a herd of goats was driven down the mountain and through the camp site to sleep the night in one of the houses. Probably right next to our breakfast for the following day!

There was much English-Scottish rivalry going on tonight, more so than usual, probably since the "Flower of Scotland" incident earlier in the day. The main protagonist was Jimmy Smith from Scotland as always, a great guy I might add. Jimmy in fact, challenged our English hero, Nigel (affectionately known as 'Fat Bloke' because he was so thin) to a race up the top of a rather large "mound", and whoever won, had the opportunity to either wave the Scottish or British flag from the top of the hill. Well, before you could say "See you Jimmy!", 'Fat bloke' courageously carrying the british flag, was half way up the hill! Jimmy made a dash for it, but 'Fat Bloke' was on top proudly waving the british flag before Jimmy was even half way up. 1:0 to the English!

Above: The "mound" in the village, scene of an epic England v Scotland battle, which the English won!

It was then decided to induct our fantastic guide, Whey Ling, into Bridgehouse Round Table. The Chairman, Andy, conducted the ceremony, while Jimmy Smith was given the 'Bunny Ears Hat' for being beaten by 'Fat Bloke' up the mound.

Above: Whey Ling is inducted into Bridgehouse Round Table by the Chairman, Andy. I'm not actually sure he knew what was going on as he spoke no English whatsoever, but was very pleased with his Round Table badge.

There then proceeded to be one of the most enjoyable, drunken and funny nights of the entire trip. It just got better and funnier the longer it went on.

It started when Whey Ling brought out some of his Chinese Firewater, the one that was usually used to set my leg on fire with. Freshly inducted into Round Table, he started as he meaned to go on by passing it round. Pretty soon everyone was sloshed, and we moved into the main tent to play 'Charades'. Kelvin was absolutely useless at it, and so we all pretended not to guess what he was trying to tell us. Pete "Sumo" Cowan, stripped off, pulled his pants up his into his butt crack and started to bound around like a Sumo Wrestler. Our faces just ached with laughter. Jimmy brought us some cheese on Gariboldi biscuit, which was just heaven after the Chinese food we had just eaten. Eventually we all tootled off to our tents, some worse for wear than others.

We were next to Andrea and Ros from Wales, and all we could hear was her giving him a damn good ear bashing for drinking so much. "I can't believe you've got like this on just the 2nd night" she bellowed. Ros left the tent and proceeded to phone all family and friends in the UK at the top of his voice. We put our ear plugs in and went to sleep.

In the middle of the night, I had one of the most bizzarre experiences of my life. Needing to go to the toilet after all the food and drink, I put on my miners helmet shorts and boots and headed off to a little dip at the bottom of a hill. I did my business, and was just about to pull my shorts up when behind me I heard some loud rustling. It sacred the "Sh#t" out of me. Well it would have, had I not already just been. I looked round and pointing the torch on my miners helmet towards the rustling, I saw two field mice tangled together to form a ball, rolling down the side of the hill towards my fresh pile. I stepped back to get out of their way, right into the middle of it! My boots were now covered in sh#t and the two mice scampered away. It was a very funny end, to a very long funny and eventful day. What would tomorrow bring to better that?

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Great Wall of China - June 07-15, 2002. Day 4 - First Ascent of The Great Wall At Simatai, Miyon City

Above: Waking up on the morning of the first ascent onto The Great Wall. Andrea (from Whizz-Kidz) washes Carla's hair and delivers our morning water supplies.

Extract from Beccy's diary Monday June 10, 2002:-

"I had a bloody awful night's sleep as I was busting for a wee after holding it in for about 16 hours. Guess I am not cut out for this camping lark. Our tents are positioned so close together that you can hear everything that is going on in each others tents. I am used to Paul's snoring but last night was like living with a bunch of bears. There were snorers in every tent.

We were awoken by shouting and laughing at 5.45am after only getting to sleep at about 3.45am and being freezing cold all night by Kev, Trev, Kelvin, Rus and Chubby (Chris from Newcastle) who seemed very hyperactive.

Freezing cold water was delivered to our tent in metal bowls. I attempted to go and find a suitable spot to have a wee. I found a bunch of trees at the back of the tent which looked quite private. This is the most prehistoric thing I have ever had to do."

Having had a pretty awful, painful and cold nights sleep, we got up and I hobbled to breakfast. My ankle was really bad, but I was determined to walk on the wall. Everyone tried to tell me to stay behind in the tent for the day, but I was having none of it. I had come half way round the world to trek on the Great Wall, and trek I would. Ros Morgan from Wales, gave me his ankle support. I put this on and it proved a godsend for the rest of the week. I barely took it off again!

Breakfast consisted of egg fried rice, porridge, melon and Chinese tea. We had a quick wash with our water bowls, collected our packed lunch for the day which consisted of 1 boiled egg, 2 cream crackers, 1 chocolate bar, 3/4 of a banana, 2 Garibaldi biscuits, 2 tomatoes, cucumber and dried peaches. "Aren't I a luck girl" said Beccy! At 8.00am we started trekking. Beccy was really worried about my ankle, but I was having none of it. With Beccy's walking pole and mine, plus Ros's ankle support, we set off to climb an incredibly high looking mountain over to the right of our camp and to walk on The Great Wall of China.

Above: Beccy and I about to start our trek. We were heading for the top of the mountain behind us in the misty distance.

Above: The houses in the village where our evening meals were prepared and where the previous evening I had been massaged and had my leg set on fire!

Above: 2002 United Kingdom Round Tabler's assemble for their trek on the Great Wall of China.

The start of the trek was not too bad. I had adapted my walking style to putting both poles forward into the ground, left leg forward first, then dragging the right leg up to it before repeating the process. I soon began to get quite good at it, and any time there was pain, I managed to mentally shut it off and continue walking. This is a technique I would put to good use when I swum the English Channel for the first time in 2007.

We trekked through low mountain terrain, and stayed towards the back of the group. Beccy didn't mind this as she was watching me and Cara who was slightly disabled and walked at the same pace as me. It gave us all time to chat, have a laugh and take in the magnificent scenery.

We eventually arrived at a small Chinese village and Beccy was thinking that it was not much further now until we reached The Great Wall and to the tower we were heading for and where we would stop for lunch. When we looked up, we were shocked to see that we needed to scale the side of a mountain to get there. The tower was literally straight up. To cap it all, it had been raining all morning and not only were we very hot and sweaty, but we were soaked through.

A very helpful Chinese lady appeared, along with some friends and they helped us. Apparently, this is what they did every time a group climbed the wall. They climbed with us, and I have to say were incredible, although frowned on by our guide Ken. Apparently, what they wanted was for us to buy their Great Wall books at the end of the day. Ken didn't want us to buy these as our official guide (Whey Ling) also wanted us to buy his. However, this lady spent all day with me, helping me up incredibly slippery, muddy footpaths and it was much appreciated I can assure you. In fact, with my ankle as it was, I'm not sure I could have done it without her and I bought one of her books at the end of the day.

We wandered through the thick vegetation, up muddy paths, clinging onto anything we could to pull us up the steep sides of the mountain. My Chinese lady kept saying "Lowly, lowly, lowly...". What she meant was "Slowly". I can still picture her and hear her saying it over and over again today!

Above left to right: Dave Clouting, Cara and me, trekking through the vegetation to get to The Great Wall, and stopping for a breather half way up.

I had to leave Beccy to her own devices as it was all I could do to climb with my ankle as it was. The mud was clinging to the bottom of your boots making your feet very heavy. Beccy was behind us being helped up the slippery and steep areas by one of the Chinese guides and Darren Coleman from Catford & Lewisham 97 Round Table. One of them was pushing her from behind, the other was pulling her up! Eventually, we had scaled up the side of the 900 foot mountain and stepped onto The Great Wall of China where we stopped to devour our packed lunches. The views were stunning and it most certainly had been worth the effort and pain.

Above: Stunning views of the valley from the top of The Great Wall, with the village we had walked from down in the valley below.

We sat up on top for about 3/4 on an hour, during which time we cooled down somewhat and the wind was quite chilly. I put on my rugby shirt, and Beccy put on her coat to keep warm, then we went over the wall and started to descend down the other side into the former Outer Mongolia (外蒙古). The terrain was quite rough and brambly but Beccy had long trousers on so her legs did not get scratched.

Half way down, we stopped for a five minute rest, and a few more photo opportunities. Pictured above is me with the Chinese PLA doctor, one of the tour guides and Ross Morgan.

Above: Beccy trekking through the brambles in Outer Mongolia on the way down the mountain.

We stopped for a group photo shoot on a particularly stunning part of The Great Wall. What you don't realise is just how steep it really is in some places, and you really wonder just how they built it. It literally runs along the ridge of the mountain tops, no matter how steep they may be.

Above: Beccy having just crossed a bridge after having climbed all the way down a very steep part of The Great Wall which can be seen in the distance behind her.

We arrived back at the camp at about 4pm all feeling really satisfied, if not somewhat tired. We dumped our stuff in the tents and sat round in a circle together to relate tales of the days trek and down a few beers in traditional Round Table style. At this point it was a relief that it had stopped raining, the sun was beating down and you could take your boots off. Kelvin decided to shave Trevor's head which was quite strange to watch.

Above: Kelvin shaves Trevor's head back in the village.

At 5pm we were given Melon and Garibaldi's and ate some snacks that Beccy and I had brought from the hotel in Beijing. We had a wash in our bowl of dirty water, then had our evening meal in the tent which consisted of rice, vegetables, meat substitutes, ham and much which was simply undescribable! We were all still hungry when we had finished.

The Chinese doctor marched me down to the houses again, where I was treated to another rendition of having my leg set on fire and massaged. The pain was excrutiating once again. I returned to the tents where I told Beccy I was just going for an hour's lie down as I was a little bit tired. I didn't wake up again until the next morning!

Beccy and the rest of the tablers stayed outside until about 10.30pm telling jokes, drinking port supplied by 'Tory Boy' (Dave) and vodka supplied by Moet & Chandon (Nadine King and Pam Gatenby-Taylor). It had been a great but tiring day, and I was just glad that considering my ankle injury I had been able to complete the first day's trekking.