Great Wall - rising to the challenge
Monday, 21 May 2012
In the first of a two-part series, NI Travel News’ own intrepid adventurer KIRSTY WILKIE heads off on a charity trek along the Great Wall of China and finds it’s a lot more challenging than many might expect...
STRETCHING 6000km in a dotted line across China, the Great Wall was begun in the 5th Century BC. As it snakes across the mountains it conjures up a sense of history, which is difficult to grasp until you have had the opportunity to experience it.
My trek across this sleeping reptile was very varied, we passed through woodland and terraced farmland, following the contours of the beautiful hills and mountains in remote areas north of Beijing. We followed old sections as well as restored sections with smooth flagstones and lots of steps - both with very different difficulties... jostling with crowds of tourists and school children on the restored sections or navigating crumbling stones, no side walls and sharp drops down steep mountainsides on the old wall.
The challenge was physically demanding but we were well rewarded with some fantastic scenery, breathtaking views and a fascinating first-hand insight into a rich culture and history.
Days one and two were filled with travelling. I took a mid-morning flight from Belfast City to London Heathrow with bmi... when travelling with so much gear (liquids, walking poles etc), all of which had to be checked in, it was much cheaper to travel with an airline who included a generous checked-in baggage allowance in the price of the flight. I had a couple of hours to kill at Heathrow before meeting with the rest of the Skyline group, so after a quick walk-round to find out where our meeting point was located I parked my luggage at an empty table in one of the cafes and grabbed a coffee and a hot filled roll. Food glorious food! When I ate that roll, little did I know it would be the last piece of proper bread I would see for 10 days!
It wasn't long before I spotted some people hanging around near the meeting point who looked like they were going on a trek... dressed in walking trousers, heavy walking boots and a warm fleece/coat (similar to myself). I went to join them and found out, after some introductions round the little circle, that we were all signed up to the Geat Wall of China trek with Skyline.
The group leaders showed up pretty promptly and got us all checked in, leaving us with instructions on what gate to meet at and what time. The key rule... DO NOT MISS THE FLIGHT.
To read the rest of Kirsty Wilkie's feature on her charity trek on the Great Wall of China and see all the pictures, pick up a copy of Northern Ireland Travel News...
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