Today the trek moved firmly onto the restored Wall in Mutianyu.

The Chinese government has spent time and cash restoring many parts of the Great Wall, turning them into incredibly busy tourist spots. We were told that the part of the wall we were tackling today was favoured by Hollywood celebrities.

We didn’t see any.

What we did see were thousands of Chinese tourists, young and old.

En route to the day’s trek, one of our guides, Michael, explained the Chinese policy of “birth control”, the idea being that since the 70s Chinese couples are only allowed one birth. He explained that while this idea was to control population, the country has gone from 700 thousand inhabitants to over 1 billion in 35 or so years.

You see, farmers are allowed to have more than one child. Why? More children means more farm workers!

He offered that opinion that, while many of us Westerners may view this as a breach of human rights, in reality it’s saved the world from a Chinese population of over 5 billion!

The cost, though, is great. Firstly financial. Families that are found to have had more than one birth are fined, the cost being around 5 times their annual salary.

The cost in society is also great, with an ever ageing population putting an increased strain on the finances of the young.

That being said, it’s clear that Chinese culture is incredibly family orientated, and during our climb up the 1000 Steps towards Heaven’s Stairway, this was clear to be seen. We regularly saw three generations of family climbing and resting together in the unseasonably hot temperatures.

Stories like those told to us by our guides Michael and Harry are proof that being a fundraiser for St Andrew’s Hospice isn’t just about raising funds or challenging yourself; you also learn something!

The climb itself for the #standrewstrek fundraisers was breathtaking. Not only where we all gasping for air during the many unbelievable steep sections of steps, whatever breath was left in our lungs was taken whenever we paused to look at the incredible landscape, from the lush, green rolling valley running down from the wall, right up to the jagged peaks and ridges far beyond, layer after layer of mountain range stretching as far as the eye could see.

The Wall itself is a feat of breathtaking engineering, with many of us marvelling during our rest stops as to how, exactly, the Chinese did it.

What today illustrated to any potential fundraiser for the Hospice is that you need to be prepared. Granted, it’s very hard to be fully prepared for something like trekking the Great Wall of China. But you can do your best to be physically and mentally set up to deal with long days of physical activity.

Part of that includes having the right gear.

That means well broken in boots or hiking shoes. Comfortable socks and a pack of Compeed blister strips, just in case. You also need some sort of hat to keep the sun off, sunglasses and a couple of Buffs or neck scarves. These serve many purposes, not only protecting your neck from the sun, but also for mopping your brow or for covering your nose when using public toilets!

Lunch today was Subway sandwiches far enough up the Wall that we weren’t unduly troubled by tourists. Only crazy Scottish fundraisers – and the odd Australian – ventured that far up on a day as hot as today.

Coming down was a matter of personal taste. For some, like Stevie, it was Shank’s Pony all the way. While others, including Matthew Jr, opted for the luge, a sledge that took riders from about a third of the way up the Wall, back down to the souvenir stands below. Matthew’s ride, however, ended a bit sooner than expected,  when in a moment of madness he took his hands from the control stick and promptly left the metal track and ended up on a his back. Unscathed, thankfully!

The rest decided on either cable cars or a chair lift, with legs dangling over the tree tops many feet below.

Back on ground level it was time to barter (or be outrageously ripped off) for some tacky souvenirs to take home to friends, family and loved ones. Successfulness in this process varied greatly, with some snagging some great gifts for a few pounds, while other leaving £100 lighter in exchange from a plastic bag full of tat.

Onwards we travelled to our hotel for the evening in the Beijing suburbs and the by now customary Chinese meal in a nearby restaurant.

The consensus for today was “amazing!” but our legs are protesting a little too loudly tonight…

Advertisements