Monday, October 31, 2011 @ 02:10 PM
John

China Trek October 2011

Friday afternoon 14/10/11

Met up with the group at Heathrow for our flight to Beijing. We flew with Emirates with a change in Dubai arriving in Beijing mid afternoon on Saturday.
Both flights were pretty much on time. Very comfortable flights with award winning in-flight entertainment. There were literally hundreds of Film, TV, Music and Game choices available.

Saturday 15/10/11

On arrival at Beijing joined coach transfer to Dong Fang Hotel. Experienced traditional Beijing traffic problems and the 40 minute trip ended up taking closer to 2hours. Arrived at Hotel and after checking in had time for quick shower and change before meeting up for welcome dinner. Nice meal (Chinese cuisine naturally) and a couple of beers before heading out to explore Beijing at night. Didn’t get very far as discovered local bar just 100 yards from Hotel where beer was only 60p for 600ml bottle.

Not too late a night and slid into bed to sleep off jetlag before our trip started in earnest the next day.

Sunday 16/10/11

Coach transfer to Huangyaguan which was to be our base for the next night. Checked in and then out to the courtyard for our first hike and taste of the Wall.
Quickly discovered how hilly the terrain was having to climb for a while before actually reaching the Wall. Then trekked along the wall for around 4 hours which include some lung bursting flights of steps. It’s not just the number of steps that is tiring but also the fact that they are of irregular height which means you can’t settle into any sort of rhythm. I was puffing like a good one and dripping in sweat (nice) but I kept up pretty well finishing towards the head of the group. We walked back down to our Hotel for a shower and change before heading off to a local Restaurant. Had another good meal and afterwards they lit a huge bonfire which we sat around drinking beer and playing Charades until the wee small hours. Slightly staggered back to Hotel and slept right through until the wake up call. For most days we got started pretty early so no lie ins or recovery time from the previous day’s exertions.

Monday 17/10/11

Early breakfast and picked up packed lunch before heading off for full day trekking. What a day this was. Starting from the Hotel we joined the Wall and then proceeded to climb for around an hour up countless steps before even reaching the big challenge of the day…Heavens Ladder, a near vertical flight of 300 or so steps to reach the mountain top. I found it really tough going but again I made it towards the front of the group. Although we had all done a pretty extensive training programme nothing in the UK can prepare you for the terrain here. Once everyone had finished the climb we set off across country on mountain paths towards our destination. I really enjoyed the afternoon trek during which we had a break to scoff down our lunch packs. After six hours we reached our destination which was a small village miles off the beaten track where we were to stay in a farmer’s house. Needless to say the facilities were a bit basic including traditional Chinese squat toilets but they were clean and everyone seemed happy with arrangements. It was a pretty exhausted group that sat down to dinner that evening before again clustering around an improvised campfire for beer. My calves were giving me a bit of gip so I was thrilled to find one of our group was a masseur. Half an hour of pounding and kneading later and I was feeling great and ready for the next day.

Tuesday 18/10/11

Another early start, pretty poor breakfast and we were off again. This time a mega climb to reach a local beauty spot. It was very hard going but the views when we got there were certainly worth it. While resting some of the group took the time to tell us why they were doing the trek. There were some very moving stories and it was quite an emotional experience. It wasn’t just a few of the girls that had tears in their eyes.

We then headed back downhill to where we had stayed the previous evening for lunch before hiking cross country to meet our coach and a ride to our next stop. We arrived at Jinshanling as the sun was setting. Once again after checking in a quick shower and change was followed by a meal washed down with the local beer. There are a load of local traders there so throughout the evening we had a constant stream of people trying to sell us everything from T shirts to Panda hats through to chopsticks, snow globes and just about anything else you could imagine.

Wednesday 19/10/11

This was to be the hardest day physically. Once again an early start and we were off on a circular hike that would bring us back to Jinshanling for a second night. We really scaled the heights this day and just over 10 hours later we crawled back to our rooms. I was shattered but somehow after a shower and a couple of beers I got a second wind and we had a fun night just relaxing and fighting off the traders who still had piles of stuff they wanted us to buy. During the evening we went to a paper cutting place where they make just the most amazing things simply out of cut paper. We were given a demonstration and then invited to buy a sample or two which we pretty much all did.

Thursday 20/10/11

We were taken by coach to our starting point this morning and then had a five hour trek on some parts of the wall and also across country to our destination where we met up again with the coach which took us to Mutianyu our base for the night. Once again this was a pretty challenging trek with the first couple of hours being straight uphill until we reached the wall. Mutianyu is closer to Beijing than our other bases and as we were to find out a very popular place for day trippers to the wall on excursions from Beijing. We had a good meal in the evening and settled down in the bar for a quiet session. This got completely out of hand and as a result we suffered our first casualty. One of the group (not me) partied a little too hard and failed to make roll call the next morning. We left her still semi conscious in bed when we set off in the morning.

Friday 21/10/11

The start to this days walk seemed the hardest of all to me. We were literally climbing constantly up very step gradients for nearly two hours before we reached the sanctuary of the wall. Having battled our way uphill we were astonished to find the wall itself absolutely heaving with tourists. We were later to discover that just a mile or so from where we had begun our climb there was actually a chairlift, hence a very popular access point for day tourists. We hiked along the wall for an hour or two constantly bumping into people before reaching the end of our trek. Here we had a celebration drink of Champagne before making our way down to the car park and our coach which was to take us back to Beijing. For all of the previous days we had pretty much been on our own with little contact with other people but here it was very different. It was so commercial there was even a “Subway”. I have to admit that after many days of Chinese food most of us tucked into a sandwich. Hot Roast Beef with Cheese and all the trimmings washed down with a Coke was my choice.

We then clambered into our coach for the trip back to Beijing, our trek was over.

Checking back in to the Dong Fang we had a short while to prepare before we all headed out for our celebration dinner. What a fantastic night. A truly sumptuous feast was followed by a night of bars and clubbing. Being something of a lightweight these days I called it a day around 2am and joined by a few others we headed back to our hotel in a cab. The next morning I headed into breakfast and sat down at a table with one of our group to discover that he and four others had made a proper night of it and had only just got back to the hotel

Saturday 22/10/11

Our last day in Beijing was taken up with a full on tour of the tourist spots with visits to Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, The Olympic Park, A market where you could get just about any fake designer goods, A Rickshaw ride, a local house, A silk Factory, and A Tea Ceremony. The day was rounded of with a trip to a local theatre to see an amazing performance by acrobats. After packing I slumped into bed to grab a couple of hours sleep before we had to be at reception to head to the airport and our trip home.

Sunday 23/10/11

We arrived back at Heathrow pretty much on time and it was really emotional saying goodbye to a group of people with whom I just shared 10 of the most amazing days of my life. We’ve all promised to stay in touch and many of us are inspired to take on another trek next year.

I really hope that happens.

On a downside I’m gutted that that the pictures I took haven’t turned out well but if you go to my Face book page you will be able to see literally hundreds of others posted by my fellow trekkers.

Check them out at http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000136897974

I raised just under £2,900 for my charity. Thanks to all of you that made this possible.

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October 1991

Saturday, October 1, 2011 @ 12:10 AM
John

Here’s what happened in October 1991. You can click on the links to go to Wikipedia for fuller details

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