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Blog - 2019 Otis Great Wall Adventure

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

From October 5th-13th, 2019, twelve intrepid adventurers will be walking part of the Great Wall of China to raise funds for The Otis Foundation.  Follow our adventures as we walk the wall!



Day 1, October 5th
Beijing

Ni hao! The Great Wall adventure begins for a group of amazing people who have been raising funds for The OTIS Foundation.  The hiking trip is the culmination of 12 months of hard work and dedication to helping OTIS provide as many retreats as possible for those experiencing breast cancer.  The A-team has assembled in readiness to walk parts of the Great Wall and experience Beijing and surrounds over the next 9 days.  Here's a shot of some of us at dinner day one, excitedly chatting about the adventure awaiting us!  Watch this space for our photo of the day plus stories of our participants and why the cause is so close to their heart.  


Day 2, October 6th
Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City

The 2019 OTIS Foundation Great Wall Adventure officially kicked off today with a fascinating and fun day discovering the ancient sites of Beijing.  Our tour guide Louis took us to Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and even had us doing Tai Chi late afternoon.  We finished the day at Jingshan Park, overlooking Forbidden City and offering amazing 360 views over Beijing. Everyone had their pedometers going full tilt and the general consensus is that we did about 20,000 steps today!  Our walking efforts made us hungry and we were rewarded with the most delicious dumplings for lunch and feast for dinner.  Tomorrow we start our hike along the Great Wall.  Looking forward to updating you from there!  The shots below are of us listening intently to Louis in Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City.  There were thousands of people there today as it's the tail end of the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China, so we watched that blue flag with eagle eyes!


Day 3, October 7th
Eastern Qing Tombs and Great Wall!

Well today was the day we have all been waiting for.  We left Beijing behind and travelled by bus to the Great Wall.  On the way we stopped at the Eastern Qing Tombs, an imperial mausoleum from the Qing Dynasty.  We  made it to our accommodation at the base of the wall mid afternoon and set off for our first walk and it was nothing short of breathtaking!  It really didn't disappoint.  Below are some shots of the Qing Tombs, the Great Wall and obligatory group shot and another of two of our OTIS team members, Kate and her daughter Jess.  Kate and Jess are doing the trek for OTIS after Kate's personal journey with breast cancer and also as part of a promise they made to each other to travel together.  They were meant to go to Italy twelve years ago and didn't quite make it, but they decided to finally take the mother/daughter trip they have been talking about for so long with us!  So glad to have them on the trek!  


Day 4, October 8th
Gubeikou, Great Wall

Our day started with a bus ride to our next beautiful guest house, right at the base of the Great Wall.  We can almost touch it from where we are staying.  After dropping off our bags at the guest house, having our backpacks adjusted, our water bottles filled and sunscreen slathered, we started our walk along the most historically invasion-prone and yet one of the least touristed sections of the Wall.  This is where we got to see first-hand Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon (See photos below).  Crouching tiger is a mountain and hidden dragon is the Wall itself, winding through the mountains. We walked for well over five hours and saw virtually no one in a country of well over 1 billion people! The views were magnificent, with mountain ranges for as far as the eye can see, and the Great wall sprawling out along the spine of the ranges.  It really does defy description.  Our hike was up steep steps and broken brick pathways, some of which were less than a metre wide, with sheer drops either side.  It was hard work and slow going at times, and the team did brilliantly. We are discovering that food is a really important subject and always a hot topic of conversation.  We are sweating it out and eating up a storm at the same time!  The food for breakfast, lunch and dinner has been spectacular and we are also fully embracing the snacks of China! Three of our trekkers are siblings, Kath, Kerry and Paul, who are here to support Kath while she traverses the breast cancer pathway.  OTIS has been privileged to provide Kath and her family and friends stays at our properties, and now she and her siblings have come together to hike the Great Wall together.  They are so much fun and a great part of the group! 



Day 5, October 9th
Jinshanling, Great Wall


Each day we are experiencing different parts of the Wall and although it is one structure, it has so many different personalities.  Yesterday we walked a section that is in a state of disrepair and therefore not as visited.  We were treated to a virtually private day, allowing the OTIS group the luxury of taking in the magnitude and magnificence of the structure and the seemingly unending mountain ranges almost alone. Today, we drove for a little over an hour to Jinshanling, one of the more popular places to experience the Wall and it was quite a different experience.  There were many more people walking this section with us. The Wall itself was in much better shape but the terrain on the Wall itself was very different!  Today was stairs all the way baby!  And if there weren't stairs then there were VERY steep ramps to walk up and down.  Jinshanling was more prone to attack than Gubeikou and so the watchtowers are a lot closer together, so we had lots of opportunities to stop and rest and take in the views after a gruelling stair or ramp climb (or descent!).  This section also had the Generals tower which as you can imagine, was very well put together and the views impressive, for obvious reasons.  Everyone on the OTIS team are doing so well and thoroughly enjoying their time together, doing our best to drink in the experience and marvel at this incredible feat of mankind.  We all agree that it's going to quickly!  Some photos of the day below.  You may be wondering why Cath and Lou have medals around their necks?  Well, Kyle our Inspired Adventures guide (see photo of him with chopsticks below) has kicked off a daily medal award and they were last nights lucky recipients.  Cath and Lou get to pass on the medals tonight.  Who knows who will get tonights honours!  I've also included some shots of us eating because, well, we are obsessed with food.  It is a hot topic of conversation and the food has been amazing. It's also nice to see what we're up to off the Wall!



Day 6, October 10th
Simatai, Great Wall


Today was a very different experience again.  Same amazingly beautiful Great Wall but the location is closer to Beijing, so far more touristed.  To get to the Wall we walked through Gubei, a Water Town, which is how the Chinese refer to any town located on a river.  Gubei is big and extremely beautiful and is very very new.  It was  'opened' in August.  I say it that way because it is actually a replica Water Town.  It's incredibly well done, but kind of like being in Disneyland.  We had a little hiccup with tickets to get on to the Wall today and so we were running behind by about an hour.  To make up time, we decided to hitch a ride on the gondola rather than hike up, which was fun.  Once there, we hiked about 8 towers and like yesterday the stairs were extraordinarily steep!  The views, as usual, were out of this world and we have been blessed with day after day of perfect Autumn weather. The food has been excellent over the entire week, but dinner tonight hit it out of the park, it was an absolutely delicious feast.  I may have mentioned in other posts that food is a very hot topic and we are pretty much constantly munching on something!  Hiking does that to you.  Tomorrow, sadly, is our last day on the Wall and we are as excited to hike it as we were on day 1.  Every time you turn around it looks different and even more beautiful, if that's possible.



Day 7, October 11th
Mutianyu, Great Wall


It's hard to believe, but today was our last day on the Great Wall and it's fair to say that none of us wanted it to end.  Most of us decided to hike up to the Wall today, a 40 minute trek that was extremely challenging.....and then we tackled the Wall!  The walk was a long one, almost an 11 km round trip.  We started at tower 6 and hiked to tower 21, then back again.  The five days of hiking culminated in ascending the incredibly steep stairway to tower 21, at almost a 45 degree angle (see photos below).  The euphoria we felt at the top of those stairs is impossible to describe, but suffice to say there was lots of hugging and quite a few tears.  We experienced five of eight walks on the Great Wall and it was extremely difficult to say goodbye.  We did descend in a flourish though :) by making our way down by toboggan!  It was SO much fun.  Hilariously we found it rather difficult to unfold ourselves from the sitting position in the tobbogans at the bottom of the mountain - our hip flexors were pretty darn spent!  We then went on to have yet another amazing lunch and then made our way back to Beijing.  Unsurprisingly the bus was rather quiet, with most people pleasantly exhausted and basking in the afterglow of completing a personal challenge and experience of a lifetime.  In the evening, some of us went out and some decided to sleep, all in preparation for our final day together in Beijing as team OTIS.  P.S.  We ate ALOT of Snickers!



Day 8, Beijing - Temple of Heaven & Summer Palace


Back in Beijing for our final day but the pace didn't let up.  We were up early and off to the Summer Palace, the Summer home of Empress Dowager Cixi.  The complex is vast and magnificent, with 75% of it taken up by a beautiful lake.  It is also home to the longest hallway in the world at 750 metres in length. The history and beauty is incredible.  The highlight of the day however, was our visit to the Temple of Heaven, a masterpiece of Chinese architecture that used no nails whatsoever (photo below).  The Temple was used to make offerings to the Gods for things such as a good harvest.  The Temple is magnificent and so were the beautifully manicured grounds, which are made available to residents of the district for free to enjoy throughout the year.  On our way through we passed many retired people playing all kinds of games together and socialising and thoroughly enjoying themselves.  We finished the day with a visit to the Pearl Market, which is essentially five floors of vendors specialising in incredibly good fake everything!  In the evening, we went our for our final dinner, a very special occasion that included Peking Duck (yum!) and a celebration of Siobhan's birthday, plus a massive thank you to two very special people who made the week an amazing experience we will never forget.  Our local tour guide Louis and our Inspired Adventures leader Kyle, were incredible; the entire group felt gifted with their presence and it was because of them that we had such a good time.  Both are generous, knowledgable, warm, fun, beautiful people.  Thank you from the bottom of our hearts for your guidance and friendship throughout the week. Thank you also to every single participant on the Great Wall Adventure.  To Kerryn, Kerry, Kath, Paul, Jess, Kate, Siobhan, Louise, Romana and Ayu, thank you for your support, friendship and dedication to OTIS.  Because of their commitment, OTIS is able to offer over 600 additional nights to people experiencing breast cancer.  Thank you to everyone for an amazing experience!



October 13, Signing off from Beijing


As team OTIS disperses back to various corners of Australia, we reflect on what we have achieved over the past nine days and thank everyone who donated to this adventure.  The fundraising efforts of the participants has helped The OTIS Foundation provide over 650 nights at our retreats around Australia.  In addition to that wonderful achievement, we each walked over 100kms, took 130,000 individual steps and climbed up and down 12,000 stairs on the Great Wall of China.  What an achievement!  Goodbye Beijing and to the people who came together and became a wonderful cohesive friendship group, until we meet again.  One more shot below of the group at a tea ceremony yesterday. Xie xie China!



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