Spirits were high when we arrived back at our lodge for the night. The staff’s friendliness and attentiveness added to the enjoyment of the day, and beers were soon opened.

We had two birthday girls on the trek, and a huge cake was produced during our buffet meal (which was a western-style BBQ, with a Chinese twist!) for Ann-Marie and Ann. Candles were extinguished and wishes were made. Then it was out into the courtyard for beers, a bonfire and chat long into the night. 

It was up bright and early next morning for all, and by 7am we were packed onto the coach after a hearty breakfast and enroute back to Gubeikou where we’d tackle the next section of Wall towards Jinshanling.

It was a strange feeling driving through the Beijing countryside knowing that in several hours time our fundraising trek would be complete.

The painful legs and homesick hearts had given way to something else. There was a aura of pride on the coach, pride that we’d achieved something that none of us would forget.

Each of us had been changed in some way, in a way that would never leave us.

Some of us were thinner. All of us were fitter. Some of us had conquered fears. All of us had accomplished something that actually made a difference.

You’re never far from the reason you take part in an international fundraising trek like this one. Whether it’s the St Andrew’s Hospice t-shirts that surround you, or the personal stories of heartache and loss that walk shoulder-to-shoulder with you; you know why you’re doing this.

Cancer is an evil disease, and while there remains no cure, the world needs places like St Andrew’s Hospice.

The Hospice has to raise an incredible amount of money each week to continue to offer the sort of dignified care and attention that its well known for. That care and attention extends beyond the period of illness, though, and on the walk were many people who’d experienced this first hand.

Many had lost a close loved one to cancer, or knew someone back home who’d experienced such a loss.

Serial-fundraisers like Ann-Marie know all too well the important role the Hospice plays in the local community back home. She’s a doctor in the Hospice and a 7-time international fund raiser. Emotion is never far from the surface when you talk to Ann-Marie about the work she does and the important care the Hospice provides.

As we disembarked from the bus and warmed up in the cool morning air, the mood in the group was a mixture of excitement, pride and awareness; aware that there are many people back in the Glasgow area who would love to be where we were right at that moment in time. Illness prevents them. Personal loss makes it too hard. And with that thought in our heads, we started up the road to the Wall.

After a quick caffeine fix at a great wee coffee shop we started back up the ancient stone steps and onto the Great Wall for the last time.

Going was quick and brisk for some of us, the finish line in sight driving us onwards. For others it was a chance to linger and savour.

Within a few short hours the final watchtower of the day had been reached, perched atop a particularly steep and ragged staircase.

Thankfully a local vendor was selling cold beers so an impromptu round of hugs and celebratory cans were offered around as we huddled together behind the Hospice’s Saltire flag.

And it was more steps all the way down to the waiting coach and another round of hugs, congratulations and high-fives were in order before the customary warm down and more beers.

These extra beers probably weren’t wise considering we had a 2 and a half hour bus ride back into Beijing. Cue hastily made toilet breaks at the side of the motorway. The sight of a long line of red t-shirt wearing westerners relieving themselves in the bushes must have been extraordinary…

But that wasn’t the extraordinary element to the day’s events.

When all’s said and done, the entire trip was extraordinary. The very notion of a group from Scotland travelling half-way around the world to trek on one of the world’s wonders is one thing, but the fact that they were doing so to raise funds – and awareness – for St Andrew’s Hospice is another.

And none of it could be done without the help and support of each fundraiser’s family and friends, workmates, schoolmates, neighbours and team mates.

Everyone had a story to tell about how they got to China to trek the Great Wall. And now everyone had a story about what it was like to trek the Great Wall for St Andrew’s Hospice.

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