Great Wall Trek Diary for Friday 9th November 2001

This is my diary for Friday 9th 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.


Friday 9th November – fourth day of wall walking; Huanghuacheng

[One thing to note: that I wrote all of this a couple of days later, rather than at the time - so it's a bit curtailed and lacking in detail compared to earlier days. Sorry about that - I was having too much fun. :-) ]

Lake at Huanghuacheng The Gathering

“Wild wall day”, at Huanghuacheng. Leave hotel and walk by lake to dam, then cross dam and head up, up, up. Helping Lola for most of the morning. The wall here is very cool, but it’s slow going, so no exertion, which is a shame. There’s an extra bit to look forward to, just for the adventurous (like with Simatai).

The morning's wall 034_31 038_35 Gimbo! 004_1a

Argh! We’re not doing it! Stopped at the decision point, can see this fantastic wonderfully crumbly looking downhill section, which Harry/others go to check out, but the verdict is no, too dodgy to let any of us do it. Absolutely gutted, looking at this beautiful and fun looking chunk of wall, watching through borrowed binoculars as Eric [one of the local guides] & Dr Xing [the local doctor] work their way down it. Sigh. Waiting in the sun is very pleasant, mind.

Decision point 014_11a Welcome break The Forbidden Zone 018_15a

Set off down through orchards, single file, very slow going. Hey, we’ve got split up! Does this path even exist? Helping Jess or Edith down, me with one, Llew with the other. Lots of scratchy twigs. Very hot day. Arrive at bottom same time as other party, wherever they went. Talk with Anita/Cathy/Harriet about trekking, careers, etc. as we walk back to/through the village. Lunch in car park in sun. Food same as usual, getting very boring now. Amusing debrief for afternoon - Anita stood on chair talking, Anthony’s arms waving around in place of her own…

Heading down Heading down 025_22a 028_25a Hohoho

Split into two groups for the afternoon: some lounging around, others going up the other side of the wall by the dam. Obviously I’m in the walking group. Good hard steep climb up a path and onto the wall, but slow going again, at least until we spread out a bit. I pair up with Julie on the way up, and walk with her for the rest of the day - indeed, the rest of the week, really. She’s still worried about her knee but it’s not too bad on the way down. The walk is very enjoyable - not terribly strenuous but wild enough to be exciting. Slightly icy. Fall on arse – hurrah! Cut right arm and draw blood – hurrah! Medical adviser reckons I’ll live, however.

Afternoon starts 039_36a Lake and Hotel Harriet and Cathy Gimbo 011_8 014_11

Harry waiting at bottom of one stretch, the wall continues but we have to go off it to the left, down and around the hill, and through the village. It’s really lovely, very rural indeed. But are we going the right way? Go back & wait for others, Antony points out scrawled arrow on ground, how were we supposed to see that!?

017_14 018_15 020_17 Julie and me 024_21 026_23

Back to hotel for 1600, sit outside, get on coaches then off we go. Slightly disappointed with day – not enough walking and sad to have missed that awesome looking section of wall. Trip to next hotel takes about an hour, taking us into a much more urban area – really getting into Beijing proper now. Fantastic sunset – multiple rows of hills. Ming tombs. Lake. Fun park. Hotel in built-up area, not particularly pretty from outside but room is good (if small). Phone Mum & Dad briefly.

Dinner at a Friendship Store (not the main Beijing one, I think), food not bad not brilliant. Downstairs bar, quiet and hard work. [No idea what I meant by "hard work" here? Hard work to get served, maybe...?] Did a bit of shopping – huge store – Julie gets silk for dress. Everything very expensive, a lot of tat and a lot of quality. Hey, there’s an upstairs bar! Two vodka and cokes! It’s not beer!!! Huge, 720yuan. Wyn spent 2500 pounds! [Not on vodka. Not solely on vodka, anyway.] Back to hotel. Postcards From The Edge! [Er? Was it on TV? Did we watch it? Or is this code for me writing postcards; I don't think I did, yet...] Abortive karaoke attempt, then freeform bowling – either suck or excel. Little socks! [They made us wear some for bowling, perhaps?] Peter never bowled before but strikes-a-rooney! (0130). Up drinking til about 0230.

Friendship Store bar With Bek the Hat, bowling at the hotel near the Friendship Store

Colin’s birthday! [My brother.]

“Build New Beijing, Hold Great Olympics!” [Saw this (and similar) all over the place. At the time I was very impressed that they were getting for the 2008 Olympics all the way back in 2001; now I'm older and wiser, of course, it just seems eminently sensible. Still, one thing that constantly struck me about China - and again when I went back in 2005 - was that there was building activity virtually everywhere you looked, particularly in Beijing.]