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.

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