Though many of our #TrekforHope crew will have arrived home safe and sound, we still have a last round up of the final 3 days from Hannah. Read on, read on...
Day 3 of our trek took us to the Gubeikou section of the wall, some of which is situated close to a military zone which the public are obviously not allowed to enter. Our guide Tony told us a story of how, when he led his first trek on this section of the wall, he didn't know how to avoid the military zone and so he continued leading his group of french tourists along the wall, when suddenly guards with machine guns came out of nowhere and arrested, blindfolded and transported them all away for questioning. Thankfully, Tony assured us that his French group were all very happy and he now knows how to avoid the military zone and we wouldn't be blindfolded and taken off in the back of a Jeep...
Gubeikou was to be our longest day on the wall, with 17 kilometres of trekking, so we had all stocked up on supplies in preparation. Much like sections of the wall on Day 2 a lot of it was crumbling away either side of us, however there was significantly less shrubbery to shield our eyes from the incredibly steep drops either side of us. What many of us had considered to be high up on previous day's walking paled into insignificance compared to the drops today.
Luckily, we were accompanied by four women from a local village, affectionately known as 'hello hello' ladies who walk the wall every day helping tourists across the more vertigo inducing sections. We all knew that this wasn't purely done out of the kindness of their own hearts, but because they had lots of souvenirs they wanted to palm off onto us... Frankly though, I was happy to buy some chopsticks in exchange for the helping hand that ensured I wasn't stuck on a crumbly bit of the Great Wall for the the rest of my life. It was a long day (8 hours in total!) but seeing the seemingly never ending wall weave around the countryside made our aching legs worth it.
Day 4 was thankfully going to be much shorter, taking in the Jinshanling wall and only taking 5 hours...but again there were tricky sections abound. We were joined again by the hello hello ladies from yesterday who weren't quite so useful but tried (unsuccessfully this time) to sell us there wares anyway. Compared to Day 3, and despite all being very tired, our climb this day felt a lot easier even with the section that was so steep it felt almost vertical.
One thing that has kept us amused throughout the trek (other than Simon's fantastic jokes) has been the badly translated signs dotted around the wall. Signs like "Be cayefull" "no croysing" and the beautifully polite "please don't scribble". Today however I think we encountered the best sign of the week, "Do Not Climb the Great Wall". You'd think they could have told us that before we got here.
On our final day of trekking we were woken up at 6:30am (some of us with karaoke-induced hangovers) to catch our transfer to the final section of the wall at Mutianyu. Mutianyu is very touristy and we were joined today by many school children and tourists from all around the world, a very different atmosphere to the previous days when we hadn't seen anyone except ourselves. We also stood out quite a lot with our trekking poles, walking boots and water bladders (which were mistaken for oxygen tanks!) in comparison to all the other tourists who looked like they were just going for a casual Sunday stroll. Our final destination was the stairway to heaven another (groan) steep climb of around 1400 steps in total.
Unfortunately on this day the weather was poor, with lots of low cloud and Beijing smog, so the views weren't quite as spectacular as we'd been used to all week.
But Day 4 wasn't really about views; it was about the group completing their incredible achievement commemorating the lives of their loved ones. Our final steps were hard, but full of love and everyone was cheered when they reached the top. Inevitably emotions were running high and lots of tears were shed by everyone. At the top we celebrated with bubbly and tied two purple ribbons with messages to missed ones to a tree, and with that, all of a sudden, our trek was complete, and we made our way to our hotel in Beijing to begin a whistle stop tour of Beijing's tourist hotspots.
On our final day in Beijing before the group headed home we had a very exciting and frantic day sightseeing in Beijing! After everyone (just about) got about of bed, we walked around the Temple of Heaven where Beijing locals gather to practice Thai chi, dance and sing - a sight I'm sure I have never encountered in the UK. After that we went to Tiananmen Square, where as usual we became the tourist attraction rather than the square itself. After that we headed to the deceptively large forbidden city (which was insanely busy) before heading to a local market famous for its cheap knock-offs and bartering culture. Luckily for us, but unlucky for the market owners, we had been given a crash course in bartering by our guides so many of us came away with some bargains... None more so than Peter who successfully avoided being ripped off by not buying anything.
After a quick freshen up back at our hotel we were treated to a traditional Peking Duck banquet, where we gave our thanks to our guides for the weeks and celebrated everyone's achievements over the week with individual awards for each trekker.
By now most of the group will have arrived home, most likely tired, but hopefully incredibly proud of what they have achieved. We have all made life long friends and shared an incredibly special week together, one that I'm sure none of us will forget in a hurry.
If you wish to be part of this incredibly special Trek for Hope, there's still time to sign up to 2015's adventure! Find out more here.