Chestnut Tree House China trekkers’ last days of Great Wall trek

REPORTER Tom Cotterill follows the up and downs of a band of charity trekkers from Sussex as they walk the Great Wall in aid of the county’s only children’s hospice, Chestnut Tree House. Here is his latest report:

Saturday, 17th October 2015, 2:20 pm
Chestnut Tree House China trek day five - one of the punishing inclines on the wall SUS-151015-103258001

Emotions ran high as the Chestnut China Challenge team completed their last two days trekking along the Great Wall.

Thursday kicked off with a brief visit to a Cloisonne factory, which has specialised in crafting stunning enamelware copper vases, for hundreds of years.

The fundraisers were shown the ancient art which can see craftsmen working on intricate pieces of Cloisonne vases for several months at a time.

Then, after a quick look around the factory’s indoor shop, it was off for the penultimate walk along the Great Wall in Mutianyu.

For many, it began with a gruelling climb up The 1,000 Steps, a steep, winding pathway along the side of a mountain and on to the wall.

The blistering heat almost proved too much for some of the group, with the mercury hitting a sweltering 25 deg C.

Once on the wall, the real journey began - a tough two-hour walk scaling the undulating staircases that rose high into the Chinese countryside.

Eventually, sweaty and tired, the team reached the base of the iconic Heavenly Ladder, an imposing flight of steps which gets steeper the higher it goes.

Most people plucked the courage to scale the dizzying heights of the ladder, with team mates cheering them on right until they reached the summit.

Some even broke down in tears after accomplishing the exhausting feat of endurance.

Kay Whitehouse, of Beach Side Close, Goring, was delighted to reach the top.

The 54-year-old added a couple from Leeds, who happened to also be walking the wall, were so impressed they donated £10 there and then.

“It made me feel tearful and made me realise that everyone truly appreciates what we’re doing,” she added.

The day was rounded off with a trek back to either the cable-car lift, or to the thrilling toboggan rides further along the wall.

In the evening, the China Challengers had a chance to not only tour a jade factory but dine in one too, a rare opportunity for many westerners.

Friday morning saw the dawn of the team’s final day on the wall, as well as a very special birthday for Brighton woman Sarah Hurst, who celebrated her 46th birthday in China.

Sarah, who was the second person to celebrate their birthday during the trip, said: “It was just amazing.

“I think the whole team has been incredible and so supportive.”

After completing an easy two hour stroll on the wall, the group was transported to the ancient site of Badaling, where they helped to rebuild part of the historic fortification.

The trekkers were given a chance to cement a brick into the refurbished section of the wall, with many choosing to leave behind a special message in a piece of paper in the wall.

For most, it was an opportunity to pay tribute to loved ones.

Beauty therapist Sarah took the chance to write a touching message to her older sister Catherine Mason, who died five and a half years ago after losing her two year fight against breast cancer.

She was just 42 when she passed away.

Mum-of-two Sarah said: “I was in bits.

“The whole thing has been an emotional roller-coaster,” Sarah said.

“People think that I am quite a hard person, emotionally.

“But somehow I have been able to express my emotions here. Normally that’s a very private thing. Somehow I have been at ease here.”

For others, like Lin Paton, the message in a brick symbolised a fresh start in life.

The 58-year-old, of Pevensey Bay, said: “I put in my note that it was the start of a new beginning for me.

“I have reflected on the past and now I am looking forward to the future.”

She added: “I have been in tears today. The emotion came out for everyone.

“I didn’t know that it would be that emotional. It was so tranquil there.

“It really was the right place for that sort of thing.”

Saturday will see the trekkers’ final full day in China, with many taking a tour across the country’s capital city of Beijing.

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