Stace and I decided to skip the delights of breakfast this morning and opted for a far more desirable couple of bars of chocolate instead!!! Having been sat on the balcony watching the spam platter as well as other such fetching items being ferried up to the Karaoke Bar from last night which was the breakfast destination for this morning, we decided that frankly a couple of bars of chocolate would suffice!! We completed a video blog entry instead and watched the rain still chucking it down – I didn’t think that it had stopped doing all night by the looks of some of the puddles. Wow the wall was going to be an adventure an a half today, slippery treacherous and obviously very very wet!!
We packed up and shipped out to the bus once more, thrilled to think that we are in the Holiday Inn in Beijing for more than 1 night so we could settle a bit more and have a reshuffle of the packing!! It felt really weird that this was our last day, both in a really bad way but also in a really good way. Sad to think that it was soon to all be over but thrilled that I had managed to make it in one piece. It was going to be a tremendously emotional day whatever. It wasn’t that far a journey to the start of our trek today and the weather sadly didn’t look like it was going to change.
We had the choice of walking up the thousand or so steps to the wall itself or taking the cable car. My head was screaming CABLE CAR but my heart was telling me, I’d started this and so I was going to bloody well finish this. No short cuts. I was here to complete this properly not take the easy option, but I soooo wanted to. The steps that we had to walk up were man made and pretty much persistent, ie no little breaks. These were the kind of steps that get my asthma flaring up, an addition to the pot that frankly at this stage in the day I could do without.
I could feel my reluctance to want to start hitting me as I slowly battled on in the pissing rain, I couldn’t work out if I was too hot or not and I started to think. Never a good idea, but at this emotional stage of my journey even less of a good idea, bit like watching Marley and Me on the plane!! I realised that this was my goodbye to Penny, time to really let go and I really was not looking forward to doing that. I was doing a lot of thinking back over happy times with her and tears welled in my eyes. I was fighting my own battle climbing those steps in soooo many different ways. I was taking it really slowly and not really talking much as my mind was preoccupied with other thoughts. Stace was doing a stirling job, as always, of egging me on; reminding me that I can do it etc etc. I was a little snappy I think at one point when I said ‘I know. Thank you’. It came out before I had a chance to stop it, she was only being supportive bless her. Sorry Stace, I had so much swirling around in my head I wasn’t really able to control what came out without thinking about it. The first and only time that I actually needed my inhaler was when I got to the top and rested. I had to take my waterproof off too, it was doing a marvellous job at keeping me dry but I was sweltering in there as despite the vial weather it was still pretty darned muggy and humid.
It was really weird seeing loads of other people on ‘our’ wall. We had only had the company of each other the whole time pretty much and to suddenly be surrounded by tourists who were doing their bit of walking on the wall and were somewhat bemused by all the kit that we had with us, about as much as we were at some of the attire that they chose to walk along the wall in. The etiquette of trekking the wall – ie waiting for each other, noticing others around you wanting to pass and so on seemed to have flown out of the window. The amount of heads in shots (that have since been deleted) from people unaware that my holding up a camera means I’m trying to take a photo not looking at the view through the screen.
There were quite a few flatter bits with just a small ridge at sections which on a sunny day I think even I could have run over (just to say I had run the Great Wall only of course!!) but it was really tricky to work out which ones were the sloppy ones. It would be just my luck to slip on my arse and cause myself an injury on the very last leg – oooh bad play on words there sorry!!
We had started out quite early as we needed to start heading back into Beijing in good time so as not to get stuck in the hell of the city traffic. This section of the wall really didn’t feel very difficult compared to the previous 4 days of trekking. We didn’t really take long breaks in any of the towers, we all seemed to have a sort of adrenaline rush to want to get to the end point, proud of ourselves that we had so nearly done it.
We got to the bottom of the stairway to heaven which is a flight of 440 steps up to a sort of platform. We couldn’t even see the top of where we were climbing to the weather was so ridiculous and there was fog and mist from the rain. This was it, this was our everest!! After all that training, the tears, the doubt, the amount of talking to myself and double checking that Mummy Penny was watching, this was THE last ascent on the wall that we would be doing. Of course the mountain goats set off at break neck speed, but I was breaking down after only about 50m. The tears were going no where but down my face, I couldn’t stop them. I was of course at the back so thankfully it was just Stace that saw the teary snot ridden mess. It was absurd the closer that I got to the top the snottier and more tear soaked my t-shirt became – not that it really made much difference as I was already soaked from the rain and sweat and the worse the tears got. I guess I was just so amazed and proud of myself that I had actually managed to do it, that I had broken nothing, was not in persistent agony after every day and most of all there was a weeny part of me that actually enjoyed the hardship that I had put myself through for the last 5 days.
Michael was behind us getting photos and so on and we managed to get him to film the last sort of stair case by which time I was crying so much as this was it. It’s really twee, we hold hands at the bottom and go up that final bit together, ok until it got too narrow!!
Once that we had made it to the top we donned our Charity Challenge T-shirts as requested and we stood in a big circle at the top whilst Peter handed out a medal to each and everyone if us (much to the bemusement of several randomers who had climbed up themselves!). The rain really was coming down now, rather than being in the air as it had been all morning. We had an extra surprise from them all as well – champers!! Bless them, we were more than happy to share in a little sip to celebrate our success on mass. Then came the mass photo call en masse as well as individual and pairs and so on. It was all really emotional to put it mildly but yet also all over in a split second really! Stace and I did an Allez Bath from up there, recorded for the supporters’ club and then packed up and started to make our way back to the coach (yes, it did have to be done!!). This could have taken some time if we had decided to walk back down the 1000 steps as well as passing back through the towers. But we’re not stupid!! We came down in the cable car with Abi and Mark after strolling back to the right tower! We talked to a few people along the way who asked what we had been doing and so we explained our weeks activity and frankly most of them were quite bemused at what we had been doing for charity, on the other hand though, they were American!! It was quite nice it had to be said to feel like it was an achievement it has to be said.
Once we had alighted from the cable car, orange as well which made me giggle – looking back I think that I failed to point out that fact to Stace!! We were bloody grateful for the idea of not having to walk back down. As far as we were concerned we were already done and so there was no sense of cheating from any of us! We had to walk through all of the sellers trying to sell us cheap crap frankly, t-shirts saying ‘I’ve walked the Great Wall’, which in hindsight I really wish that I had got one of. After dumping our stuff on the bus at the bottom we headed to where we were having lunch – subway!! No I’m really not kidding! I was SO grateful for food I could eat and it was pretty much the same! I eat it so quickly Mark and I were eyeing up the idea of a second. I had got a cookie too so I decided against, just in case supper was any good!! I decided that I needed to say that I had got something from the foot of the Great Wall and a stuffed panda with a little blue kimono thing on would do the trick. I had my first experience of bartering when I walked away and thy grabbed me back and I got it for the price that I wanted. That seemed easy enough! So the newly named Peter, Michael, Sasha Lieu was my first purchase in China (other than beer!!).
So another enjoyable trip on the coach followed, I closed the curtains and took my sopping t-shirt off and put the dry one on that I had left on the coach for this specific purpose. I felt a bit odd. A whopping low came over me as I mentally waved goodbye to the wall. The realisation that it was all coming to an end in what suddenly felt like no time at all seemed to put the wind up me as I tried hard to have a little doze as we chugged back into Beijing through the ridiculous traffic. As I sat with my eyes shut I tried hard to think myself out of my low.
I started to think about what to look forward to when I got back or at least what I could start organising to look forward to when I got back. There was of course Squeeze the Cheese on Friday night which is always a giggle and a much loved evening and once we are back to quadruple confirm with Paddy then we could set up an event on Facebook as our ‘Home coming party’. Loads of people expressed an interest in joining us at the leaving do so that would be awesome. There is the rugby on Saturday of course! I think that there was some mention before I left of Tash being down for Sammie’s sisters wedding or something so she might pop over on Sunday week to hear how it went which would be lovely. In reality, and no offence to Tash, I wasn’t really going to get too excited about that as the last few times we have arranged to meet up either here or there, it’s sadly never materialised as she had other plans or double booked but I will just have to keep my fingers crossed that it does materialise. There is of course the Italy away trip to finalise. I sent Jim the details before we went away as he was meant to be doing the research as Stace and I were a little preoccupied with China and so on before we left and by the time we get back it would be a little too late. So hopefully we can book that before the end of next week and then that should be enough to get me back into the swing of things! I still thanked myself for taking the stand and handing my notice in at Invensys as I am pretty sure that I would be in way worse a state right now were I having to go back there. But I guess I have the excitement of starting a new job as well, hopefully it won’t take too long!
I woke up from my doze to be surrounded by high rises and horns. Yup Beijing was a noisy place to be!! Michael began to take our preferences for male or female masseur, my god was I looking forward to the full body massage. I had been craving one after pretty much the first day!! Only 3 chose not to have it done, Stace being one of them but luckily Abi and Mark were the other two so at least I knew that she would be ok in the bar! By the time we got to our room in hotel we were knackered but we had a nice shower in one that I didn’t feel the need to wear my Crocs in which was great! The bonus too of going to the loo and being able to flush the loo paper rather than putting it in the bin next to the loo like we have been having to do all along the trip so far! I hung up my 3 tops from today in the cupboard to dry which I thought wouldn’t take them too long. Had a bit of a reshuffle of the bags, enjoyed the fact that I could actually take the boots off and know that I wouldn’t be trekking in them for a while! I think that I might have to wear them tomorrow because it could be pretty wet underfoot, I’d work that out later though! We headed to the bar for a quick beer before heading down to the lobby for our meeting time to get the bus to go to a Kung Fu show which was an optional extra but that came highly recommended by Michael and co.
The show this evening was called The Legend of Kung Fu, a show that has clearly been running for a while and as well as having a show running in America it has toured over in Europe as well including the UK. It was all about a little boy called Chun Yi and how he came to become the Abbot at the temple through the art of Zen and of course Kung Fu. It was very good I have to say, quite a brief performance if I have to be picky!! I would not have been happy to have had to pay a stupid amount back in the UK for an hour long show, but then that’s me. The skills they showed was amazing and yet also made me squirm in my seat as it looked so ruddy painful if you know what I mean!! After the show we were luckily met by Michael who escorted us back to the bus which was now parked up out front and there was no way that we would have found it quickly as there were SHED loads of coaches parked up outside the theatre.
We headed off to supper where we once more were in a private room, this time tho instead of being the usual split as always seemed to happen we had Gavin and David on our table. It was pretty annoying that we did not mix more at meal times it has to be said. Maybe the want to bugger off as soon as us slow ones caught up might not have been so blindingly obvious if the effort had been made. Too late now to worry about that though. We had the usual array of pretty inedible stuff for me unfortunately, however there was another whole fish which David was most excited about as he did not get the opportunity to eat a fish eye earlier in the week. So out they came and away he went. I am SO glad that I could control my gag reflex. Video of him doing it below- eeeeewwwwwwwww!!
Those of us that had massages pretty much skipped down the corridors of the hotel as we went back to our rooms where apparently the masseurs would be waiting. There wasn’t one waiting outside the room when I got there which I found to be quite strange seeing as I was the first room on the list?! I waited patiently – a good 25 mins went by and I went down to the bar having heard nothing and thinking that Peter might have been down there to check everything was ok. Nope just Stace, Abi and Mark. They knew nothing. I went to reception and tried to get them to call Peter’s room so I could find out what was going on. He apologised and said that he would get Michael to call my room to let me know what was going on. So back up I went getting pretty pissed off now having looked forward to this all day and knowing that every other lucky bugger would be getting one but me. I never heard from Michael and so called Peter’s room direct and just asked him to cancel it as time was pressing on – it was like 9.40 now and the massage was for an hour and a half and that would mean we were looking at around 11.30-12am before Stace could get back into the room which was not really all that fair on her. It was just so sodding typical that out if the whole group it wad MY ruddy masseur that never turned up. I felt my whole body sort of flop and say bugger out loud! So I headed down to the bar in a grump for a beer before bed time! Once in bed I read up a little on the Temple of Heaven and the Forbidden City and also out loud to Stace so that we knew a little about what we would be seeing the following day on our City tour of Beijing.
8km trekked in 4.5hrs
Highest point 570 metres high
81 towers total