Great Wall Trek Diary for Thursday 8th November 2001

This is my diary for Thursday 8th 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.

Thursday 8th November – third day of wall walking; Mutianyu

Wake w/ headache. Hangover? Not too bad but annoying. Get up, not too cold but no hot water (knew that) & can’t brush teeth as plug in sink won’t come out! Get dressed (walking shirts stink – should have brought more) & go to breakfast 0715, again not too bad, poached eggs - yum! (Hawkers outside already – poor bastards.) Angela comes in late (alarm didn’t wake her) so I sit with her & chat. She arrived last night (should have mentioned that), having had her purse w/ passport stolen at Manchester Piccadilly on Sunday. Terrible thing, but fantastic she made it. Raring to go, obviously.

0815 we’re leaving so to buses, then off to Mutianyu, about 1.5 hours. Alas, as journey progresses, headache gets worse (nurofen @ start) and travel sickness arrives (particularly near end – winding roads). Go through fairly urban area, don’t know name. Lousy journey really, feeling very bad at end – hope fresh air helps. Argh, need loo too. OK, get to bus park, do the necessary stuff, immediately feel infinitely better – hurrah! [Oh man, that was an experience I have no desire to repeat any time soon. Blessed relief but it was not pretty...] It’s hot, so dump stuff on bus & actually have a reasonable amount on me at start, which is nice.

Birdy num-num Climbing steps to Mutianyu wall

Much milling around. Two groups again: one going up in cable car, us going up steps. Through market. Steps leafy but boring, not too hard. At top, assailed by Mongol warrior. More wall, very restored! Chairlift toboggan down by here, so this is destination too. Off we go, paired up with Julie, her knees are playing up, OK up but painful down – poor thing. [Basically, she'd completely gunned it on the first day, and in particular had gone too fast on the big long steep down down down stretch at the end of the day; she'd spent day two laid up with painkillers and this was her first outing again. Silly thing in, she was a doctor: should have known better! Anyway, she and I got on very well, as of this day.] Going is OK, “undultating”, hawkers in fixed positions, which is OK. Stop for lunch @ cable car station [that means the path on my Google Earth KMZ is wrong - I'll try to correct it some time] (have met some of the other group), lunch is as we’d expect – plus cold chips. Mmmm, that’s nice. Really nice sat in sun, soaking up rays. Julie not continuing, will cable car down then shop.

The dragon snaking off into the distance, Mutianyu Luncheon is taken

Go on with rest of group, heading towards “the thousand steps” – about 20 mins to get there? Long, steep stretch, Anthony says “in one go”, but, er, no way! Well hard, but make it (last 10 steps even steeper) - and there’s a guy @ the top selling beer! There’s wild wall beyond, and a sign saying “road ends” or somesuch. Are we going there, I ask? No, says Anthony. Poop. All the same, it’s fantastic – brilliant views back over where we’ve been. Hang around for a while, top of the world, some French appear, a coat is blown off the wall, Harry goes to rescue it thinking it Hanmer’s, turns out it’s one of the French guys’. David & Neil appear last, and get beer from the hawker @ the top – cool.

The Thousand Steps Ascending the last bit of The Thousand Steps Top o' the world, ma!

“California Beef Noodle King USA!” — why did write this? [No idea!]

Anthony’s eyeing up the wild wall above, saying to Harry he fancies a crack at it. Harry’s staying. I say, you’re not going to let me go with you, are you? and he says come if you want. Oh yes! Louisa’s up for it too, so off we go. First bit is a scramble, almost a climb, fairly loose & great fun. Then it’s just steep, and very overgrown. It’s absolutely fantastic, we’re on wild wall! Keep going up, there are bricks, stick out @ 45 degrees, the real deal. Stop past first watchtower for photos (self-timer!) and general exhultation. However, time is getting on & we’re at the back of the group, so we have to put a yomp on to get back to the other end in time – want to get the toboggan down!

The dangerous road Me, Louisa, and Anthony on the Dangerous Road (1) Anthony and Louisa contemplating life on the Dangerous Road Anthony fighting his way back down the Dangerous Road Clambering back down to the Thousand Steps

Off we yomp, got to take it steady going down (whoah!) but we make really good time & catch Harry after about 4 towers. He’s got a rucksack someone left @ the top - think one of the French guys, and doesn’t want to leave it with Chinese police. Must ask him what happened. (Answer: “Air France, taxi, no thanks whatsoever.” [Hahaha - I presume there were more details to his explanation than that, but I'm buggered if I can remember what they are.]) Toboggan: Becca, Emma, Laura just departing as we arrive. Kim there, doesn’t want to do it, Anthony persuades. 40 yuan. A says “put the lever all the way forwards & ignore the people telling you to slow down”. OK, can deal w/ that. he goes first, then me. Wheeee… Bloody brilliant. I’ve been on a couple of these before but this is the longest by far. Unmissable. High fives at bottom. Long wait for Kim!

Louisa at the bottom of the Mutianyu Speedway Kim careering out of control Department of Propoganda for Prevent Fire

OK, now writing this on last day so time to slip into notes mode. Haven’t found time to write, I think because group & friendships have gelled, so no longer spending any time sitting around! Anyway…

Market/bartering at bottom, got some chopsticks. Coaches leave at 4 for Huanghuacheng. Longish drive, about 1.5 hours? Still pretty rural. Get to destination, first sight of hotel: wow! It’s modern! Also right by reservour. Go looking for photos but light gone (quickly). Hotel plush – definitely a hotel! Room is upstairs, v nice. Excellent. Catch up on this a bit, nice shower, etc. Dinner at 7, as usual in another building. There’s one guy who speaks English drafted in from somewhere else especially. Food better but not as much as might expect.

Good food... Great food, in fact!

Apres nosh, time for another game. Me elected team captain (bastards!). Three chairs, Anthony says stuff we have to take to chair, first one gets point. We suck badly – last w/ two points. Llew/Becca on winning side again – exultant! Chinese must think we’re barmy, but it gets worse… Steve drags Anita up to sing, then orange-napkin-on-head time. Kung-fu fighting!

The kung-fu conga Anita & Andy

“Charlotte Watson’s wanking in The Barracks!” [Heh. Her room-mate was Angela, who had only joined us this day due to theft as described above; this quote is Angela in England before she joined us, imagining her room-mate (of whom all she knew was her name) taking advantage of her unexpected solitude. :-)] Becca learnt lots of Chinese.

Next AM: grooo. [Read: hangover!]

It's a real hotel!