Great Wall Trek Diary for Sunday 4th November 2001

This is my diary for Sunday 4th November 2001. I was on a trip to China to walk on the Great Wall, fundraising for the National Star College. I kept a diary but I never published it, so here it is, 10 years on. I’ll do this for every day there’s a diary entry. [Text written like this is commentary added by me now.]

The photos for this day are here.

Index of all relevant blog entries is here.

Sunday 4th November – flying to China

Departure day!!! Back not too bad in night, couldn’t really lie on RHS but OK. Woke w/ pain early, took pills, OK (now 2pm still OK, so that was probably at about 8am). [I'd pulled something in my back the previous day, and for a while feared I might not be able to go on the trip] Tesco’s for breakfast (much confusion), then last minute “where’s passport?” panic – stolen from coat outside? Nope, in photovest I’m wearing! D’oh! OK, shit is together, time to go (about 12:15). Fond farewell to Heather (won’t hug me due to fumes from coat [from waterproofing]), and we’re off! (J driving). Phoned Col again (ansaphone), Dave & Rach (cool) and Nan. Headache from fumes? Traffic is good, arrive about 1:10pm. Wander around looking for Air China, ah it’s area G. On way there, someone shouts “Andy!”, it’s Anthony Feasey from NSC. Wow, I’m impressed! Gill & Cathy around corner by Air China, get tickets from them (handy!), and check in. Nervous, fiddly, clumsy, etc. J gonna go & let me get on with it - scary! Fond farewell… Hang around for a bit like a lemon, then go to THE BAR! Boarding @ 1615 so plenty of time to kill (glad we arrived early though – got a window seat!). Now in bar @ 1357, halfway through a Caffrey’s – better take it easy!

Holy shit, I’m going to Beijing…

Have seen/met a few people but everyone seems to be keeping themselves to themselves thus far. Fair enough, there’s plenty of time, gotta see who we end up sat next to, etc. Like starting uni. :-) Wonder what Llew’s like. [The organisers had previously told us the names of our room-mates.]

Big queue to get into departure lounge; shook hands w/ Neil Brimble. Everything a bit mental but courtesy seems to get me through. Many many shops… A pub! A pint of Bass! 2.20? Outrageous! [Hahaha, oh wow.] Now 1510, only an hour until we board!

1750: OK, on board! Have met Llew, Becca (Charlotte), Laura Aitken, & Wyn (Scottish). Have window seat (11K), and it really is window, not wall between windows – cool. Sat w/ Sally & her Mum Kath, not on trek. Heathrow is dark and twinkly, not to mention huge. Back feeling OK. Really excitied – going to China!

No way can I see fireworks over there – must still be Heathrow? Hmmm, stopped, maybe was just kerosene going up. Nope, definitely fireworks, just more distant than I first thought. Here we go! Up! Up! Up! Wow, can see fireworks going off all over the place - crazy! Like camera flashes in a stadium. London (?) looks incredible, it’s a living map – want to fly over it on my own. Watching fireworks from above! Mental! Clouding under now, can’t see streetlights but firework flashes still come through. Argh, cabin lights are on, can’t see anything w/o pressing face against!

1909, passing Goethenburg @ 33,000 feet.

Dinner is served. It’s… chicken!

Yan Jing Beer! Brought to you by the good folks of the Beijing Yan Jing Brewery Co., Ltd. The label says: “Mineral water, malt, rice, Hop. Quality: Excellent. Address: Eastern Side of Beijing Airport.” Cool.

I think we’re over Finland & I can see faint lights, far far below. Definitely a town, definitely coastal. Russia?

2110, we must be above Siberia by now. Siberia! All I can see is darkness, clouds below, stars above.

2230, I can’t tell what I’m looking at – it’s like clouds but the patterns are too regular, in fact I reckon it’s ice/snow. Oh, definitely – there’s an almost round frozen lake. WOW. Absolutely beautiful. I opened the visor and there was this landscape, and a town or something! Town in distance, airport? railway? harbour? Closer too. Wish they were still showing map instead of bad Hong Kong action movie! Twisty snakey thing – a river! Light reflecting off it! Light from us? Now 0630 in Beijing, must be about 2AM here?

Aha! 100 miles north of Omsk! 10,000m. 0445 locally. 2150 miles to go. Crossed Urals about 200miles north of Sverdlovsk? Might pass Irkutsk? Lake Baikal! [I've been fascinated by Lake Baikal for as long as I can remember. One day I'll go there.]

Insane badly-animated Chinese cartoon, Little Tiger Ban Ban, just came on. Little Ban Ban appears to be a reckless motorcycling tiger cub, returned to his forest homeland with The Dew of Immortality, to save the forest, presumably so he still has somewhere for dirtbiking. Wow, he just crashed – don’t think I can watch any more, however.