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Janice, walking the Great Wall of China

great wall of china trekArticle by Fabafterfifty

With her children having flown the nest, Janice Gauld, 52,  from Rotherfield, East Sussex has just completed a ten day trip to China to walk the Great Wall to raise funds for the Heart Radio ‘Have a Heart’ charity in support of disadvantaged children.

Janice decided at 52 it was ‘now or never!’

With a 30 year career as a nurse, Janice had worked alongside colleagues at the McIndoe Surgical Centre who had undertaken charity walks, and had always wanted to participate.

Janice decided it was now or never!

great wall of China image

Some of the Wall has been renovated and attracts many visitors, mostly day-trippers, but a lot of the wall (and there is about 3000 miles of it altogether) is in disrepair and this was the sort of terrain we were walking on for the most part.  The Wall follows the contours of the mountains so even when you’re coming down there’s still a lot of ‘ups’!

Climbing ‘Heaven’s Ladder’ was a challenge

Janice at top of Jacob's ladderThe first real challenge we met was on the second day of walking when we had to climb ‘Heaven’s Ladder’ which consisted of 200 steps of varying heights, some a couple of feet high, and going virtually straight up.  From the top, you were unable to see others coming up behind as about half way down there was a curve under which the steps seemed to disappear.

After that we found ourselves on narrow, precipitous paths along the top of the wall not daring to look either side, climbing through the ‘windows’ of the sentry posts and shuffling along paths at the side of the wall with a sheer drop on the other side – no health and safety here!

The accommodation was very good spending each night in a different venue. One night was spent in a village in a farmer’s home where we slept six in a row on concrete slabs – not much sleep was had that night as you might guess.  The food we received all through the trip was very good however – although I probably won’t have a Chinese take- away for a while!

Wide range of ages and abilities

trekkers on Great wall of china imageThe range of ages and abilities was quite wide among the group (I was one of the oldest and the youngest was about 20 although there were 2 ladies in their mid 60s who always seemed to be at the front!) and several found the trek way outside their comfort zone.  However, with a lot of cajoling and help from the leaders and other trekkers everyone made it to the finish, even managing a two minute long zip slide from the side of a mountain, across a lake, down into a village – very exhilarating.

The mountainsides had been planted with apricot trees which had originally been intended to feed the workers and their families who had helped build the wall – but the one thing that struck us all was the lack of wild life.  We saw no birds or other animals other than a few goats and sheep which were being looked after by herdsmen/women.

Our group raised £140,000 for the charity

Each day at lunch time our Heart representative would read us a case study of the sort of causes our money was helping.  Altogether our group raised £140,000 net – all of which was going to the charity.

Janice said the one thing she had underestimated  was the amount of time and effort needed to put into fundraising – sometimes with disappointing results.  Her largest single donation came from an unexpected source- a patient following emergency surgery whose sister had completed the trek some years earlier.

Janice trained hard for 16 weeks prior to the trek- following the plan the organisers had given her.

Completing the trek has given Janice new-found confidence

Completing the trek has given Janice a new perspective on life and newfound confidence in other areas of her life.

Janice says “ I have now got the ‘bug’ and plan to maybe trek the Inca Trail in Peru  before too long.”



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  1. Bev Brammer

    April 12, 2011

    Great article Janice! It took me back to 2007 when I also did this trek with Breast Cancer Care. The Wall is so diverse from the rugged, (health & safety would shut down in the uk)to the well maintained nearer Beijing. I too did the zip wire – how scary was that falling off the edge! And I ended the walk at Heaven’s Ladder. Like you this was the beginning of my journey to new found confidence & fitness. Machu Pichu is also on my to do list! Ceri has asked me to do my story for her site – so watch this space! Good luck with any future ventures. Bev

  2. Christine Jacobs

    May 10, 2011

    I so enjoyed reading your article as similar to Bev i have done that trek too, back in 2003. Its a time i will never forget as i did so many things that i have never done, the zip wire being one, I wanted to do that again lol. From the day i applied to the day we finished the trek i was on a journey.A whole year of fundraising and then I had never flown without my husband to hold my hand, certainly never stayed with strangers in a foreign country but i have the most fantastic memories. And one thing we were told which i will never forget is “A man is not a man until he walks the Great Wall” apparently meaning we can do anything we apply ourselves too……..something i try to repeat to myself when my confidence is lacking. Thanks so much for taking me back and good luck with your next venture………..Chris

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