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Trek for Hope update: a post from the Great Wall!

Posted by: Comms 30 October 2014

More tales from the wall, as Hannah updates us on the status of our Trek for Hope group!

Great Wall of China

After a night spent socialising around our lodge's camp fire and sampling the local wine (hint it tastes nicer the closer you get to the bottom of the bottle) we were treated to a lie in, rising at 8am for breakfast and to make our packed lunches for the day.

Today our destination was the Black Dragon Pools National Park, and an ancient section of the wall which has never been renovated. We were told to prepare for some very difficult sections which would require a lot of concentration...we would later find out that definitely wasn't a lie.

On our transfer to the national park we were told by Tony (our other guide) about Chinese dragon culture and the history of the park we were to be walking in. Unlike in western culture the Chinese consider the dragon to be a symbol of power and strength rather than being evil. It's believed that in ancient tribal times each tribe worshipped a different animal and that animal was displayed on a totem pole in the tribe.

Day 2

When the tribes fought with each other the victor would take a piece of the other tribes animal. One tribe eventually defeated all the other tribes, and took pieces of all the other tribes animals:

Horse's head
Shrimp's eyes
Deer antlers
Fish scales
Claws of Phoenix
Snake body
Tail of lion 
Carpes whiskers

...So the animal they worshipped became what we now know as the Chinese dragon!

In the area we were trekking today the locals believe that two dragon brothers lived in the valley, one white, and one black. There wasn't enough space in the valley for both of them so the black dragon went to the top of the mountain and the mountain God asked what the black dragon needed. Because he was a kind dragon and he just wanted to give the local people a better environment, he said he wanted nothing and he began planting trees. The Mountain God was impressed and when the black dragon went back to the mountain God and asked for water to make the trees grow the God took a necklace with 18 pearls on and threw it into the valley, as the pearls landed they turned into pools and waterfalls... the Black Dragon Pool national park.

We began the days trek with a leisurely climb up through the valley taking in each dragon pool and waterfall as we went....again becoming tourist attractions ourselves, with the locals stopping to have their photo taken with us. Compared to what was to come this section was relatively easy and we trekked to the top of the valley to the temple where local people go to worship the good black dragon with relative ease. Unfortunately the temple was currently being restored and so wasn't quite what we were expecting (it was essentially a building site)! After a short stop for lunch (which included interesting combinations such as lettuce and egg, peanut butter and marmite) we begun our ascent to the wall section of our trek today.

It's hard to describe quite how delapidated this part of the wall is, it was incredibly overgrown, and had crumbled away so much it was only possible to walk in single file with sheer drops either side of us. Although it was a short section of the wall, only taking in 3 watch towers, and totalling about 2k it took us two hours to complete. The terrain was so overgrown and vertical at times we often wished we could exchange our backpacks for parachutes. To say it was scary is a bit of understatement and for those of us with vertigo it was definitely an occasion to slide down on your bottom and not look down! Despite the vertigo the views were again beautiful (when we could bear to stop and look). Finally we reached the bottom, slightly delirious and hugely relieved and headed back to our lodge for well deserved beers and soft drinks.

Tomorrow we move to the Gubeikou gateway section of the wall, an area our guide Michael says is his favourite section and not as petrifying as today's. We are not sure whether to believe him or not...