Next Up: Kilimanjaro

Freshly back from their Wall of China Trek. Chris and John have signed up to take on Kilimanjaro in February 2010.

If you would like to sponsor them please go to:

All proceeds will go to The Ayrshire Hospice.

We are currently loading lots of new China Trek Photographs and these should be available to view and download later today.

Puppy Tour Comes to a Close

Woof! I had an early rise this morning as I'm still worried about the ransom; but I rolled out of bed and ran and gave dad a big lick! As we haven’t raised the full ransom money yet dad is going to attempt to smuggle him out of the country (gulp!)

After breakfast, noodles and fish chews, and brief morning walkies (no more stairs for the oldies!) it was off to the airport.

Got some cool pictures at the airport, first of all with some nice bears I met in Starbucks and then some more with Chinese security. Silly fools let me out the country without paying the rest of the ransom!! They even let me pose with their flags!

Of course, being the coolest puppy in China; completely lovable, intelligent, successful, popular, fashionable, rich, modest and so on... (it comes naturally) I managed to get the dude at the check-in desk to upgrade me to business class. Tail-wagging stuff! Woof!

And as I'm such a celebrity even the pilots wanted a picture!! It does get embarrassing at times. However, they let me fly the plane for 100 miles but they woudn't let me try a loop-the-loop, oh well, suppose it meant dads wig never fell off! Had a good flight to Amsterdam and I got peace and quiet in business class whilst Dad, Chris, John and Stewart slummed it through the curtain. No snoring and no smelly feet. Result!

In Amsterdam we had a final drink with the trekkers before catching the last flight home. I got some nice cheese too, mmm, Puppy loves cheese!

I have had a fabulous week walking the Great Wall with all the team, thanks to Dad for taking me!

I am very grateful for all the support from everyone at home and abroad and hope the that donations keep coming in so that Zara doesn’t have to keep me hidden from the Chinese generals at the Seamill takeaway! But even if I do have to hide, her bedroom is always very messy so it should be easy to hide for a while - well until December when she has to tidy it for Santa!

Keep watching the website for updates on my future adventure and progress on my ransom collection.

Dad tells me his mates John and Chris have a big announcement coming up tomorrow once they run it past their wives! -Those presents better be good boys!!! Stay tuned! WOOOF!xx

On Our Way Home!

Another early start, 6am alarm and we all meet in Reception. The difference is that this time everyone has sad faces. There are some of our group staying on to see the Terracotta Warriors, so the first tearful farewells are at the Hotel.

On the Bus everyone is very subdued and then Vicky our Chinese guide gives a very moving farewell speech.

I think the that one of the two Linda’s from Jools summed this week up well – "fandabydozy!"

At this point we would all like to take this opportunity to say a few Thanks.

So in no particular order....

First of all a big thanks to everyone who has taken the time to follow our adventure especially those who have made comments and donations. The comments in particular have been great motivation over the last week or so.

Big thanks to Stewart McGookin and David Woodison at Microtech for their hard work in processing the blogs and pictures. Bottles are on their way!

Special thanks to Justine from The Ayrshire Hospice who arranged this Trek. She proved to be more than a capable coordinator as well as formidable trekker.

The challenge was organised by Action Challenge and their representative was the lovely Alison. Georgina Hobbs from Tailor Made Trekking lead the trek in conjunction with the Chinese International Travel Service (CITS). Big thanks to Peter, Jerry, Michelle and especially Vicky who has the most infectious laugh in the world.

Massive thanks to all our fellow trekkers, we have shared some very special and unforgettable moments with each and every one of them. Too many to mention them all here but in particular but we like a special thanks to Graham Gibson who was the unofficial photographer (although he does sometimes go too far!)

Thanks to Robert and all of the staff at Seamill Hydro Leisure Club.

Finally and most importantly, none of us Guys could have contemplated even being here, let alone surviving this challenge without the support of wives and children.

So massive thanks, hugs and kisses on their way to...
Anne, Caitlin & Nicole.
Jacqueline, Zara (thanks for letting us borrow Puppy).
Ann, Sharon, Craig and Iain.
Kathleen, Elise and Nathan.

We are writing this final blog at Schipol Airport in Amsterdam. Be home soon!

The Guys

Ps. Big thanks to our in-house translator Stewart, it will take him months to lose his (fake) Chinese accent!

Puppy's Final Day - We Hope!

Woof! I’ve been a bit of a naughty pup today! Despite not being able to fully see over the steering wheel I drove my fellow trekkers to The Forbidden City in a big bus! We then went on to Silk Alley. What a wonderful place! But I ha to make a quick exit, one my Great Uncle Scooby would have been proud, of as I don’t have a Chinese Driving Licence. Oops!

I got to sit in the emperors chair but they wouldn’t let me take a picture, did manage to get a picture of a beautiful local girl but she wouldn’t hold me in the picture. Grrr. Weather was once again very warm today and I managed to get a few more pictures within this massive palace. It would make a great kennel!

Later on we went shopping in the silk market, got another picture at the reception with an aeroplane although the armed guards weren’t that happy! Surely they wouldn’t shoot a we pup like me though? Thankfully a couple of my fellow trekkers stepped in and after a little money exchanged hands we were on our way! One of the guards had suggested he’d make puppy stew and noodles for tea the next day! Phew, glad I escaped!

Went to help dad and the guys do some shopping late afternoon - boy did they look stressed!! I’m lucky as I just had a chew to buy for my girlfriend Susie but Dad, John, Stewart and Chris were particularly stressing: ‘colour?’, ‘cost?’, ‘size?’, ‘does it match?’ and so on… it looks like a difficult job being a married man, glad im a dog!

Went for dinner in the oldest restaurant in Beijing and had a fine final meal! A meal fit for any dog. Sadly duck will never taste the same at home again. Hopefully my friends at Pedigree Chum will take note! Duck tastes better than Cat!

Had a wee late night stroll around some bars tonight, partying and saying my farewells.

I think I’m going to miss China, if I get home!

Shopping Day!

No trekking today (Sunday) but still plenty of walking. After an excellent breakfast we board the bus for trip to the forbidden city. This is a stunning example of the extreme decadence of the emperors of the previous Chinese Dynasty’s. Whilst in its day there is no doubt that it would be a luxurious residence it is clearly an obscene self indulgence.

Our Chinese guide was quick to point out the comparison to Buckingham Palace, with 9000 rooms it easily surpasses the 600 in The Queens Home. We could not fail to be impressed by the vast area that it covered although this could be required with a concubine of 3000 wives, associated children and widows from former emperors and If you then add on the eunuch’s (ouch) then I suppose that the numbers soon add up.

In Communist China, parents of Young Virgin girls as young as thirteen used to present their children to the Emperor to let him select them for his concubine. In a number of cases the emperor did not even consummate the relationship and the girls never having seen their family again, died as virgins.

In the case of eunuch’s, young boys were castrated at an early age, sometimes dying in the process due the extreme procedure, that took a recovery period of two years. The boys were then offered as slaves to the emperor and received a small salary which they would then pass down to the family to bring up other members. Often castrated boys were rejected even after going through this brutal mutilation.

After this tour we headed to the Silk Market for some serious shopping. This was a complete nightmare for the inexperienced shopper (although we are pretty sure our wives would have been in their element). Basically you walk through rows of stalls and young predominately female stall holders shout at the top of their voice, trying to entice you to stop and have a look at their merchandise. If you are naive enough to actually stop then you are constantly badgered by two or three individuals about what size, colour, style you would like to buy. Now obviously we were all given lists and instruction about potential gifts and presents so therefore all had to make at least one purchase. This is where the ‘fun’ starts. The seller starts off by giving you a ludicrously high price. Once you have expressed horror at this, you are then expected to make a counter offer. I would really like to think that no one is daft enough to pay the first price but I expect that they hope for the unsuspecting target. After a series of bids and counter bids, during which the seller will beg, cry and curse. You will range from being handsome, a robber, depriving their family of food and generally coerced into paying as high a price as possible before ‘agreeing’ upon a number. In some cases this involved you walking away only to be then chased through the market still trying to haggle.

If you have bartered well the final price should bear absolutely no resemblance to the first price quoted. An example of this would be a Rolex Watch. First price offered was 2200Yen, around £220. I was assured on the grave of my sellers late mother that this was an original timepiece and would not find another anywhere else in the market because all the others were fake. How lucky was I finding a genuine article after such a short vist. After much gnashing of teeth, questions about your parentage, accusations of offending the whole Chinese race and walking away 2 or 3 times, the final agreed price was 180Yen, around £18. No difference there then! What a bargain, it’s not every day you manage to get a genuine diamond encrusted Rolex watch for less than 20 quid.

We all had headaches after less than an hour trawling through this crowded market.

Today we had a celebration dinner at the oldest Chinese restaurant in Beijing. 135 years old but without doubt one of the best meals we have ever had. The Peking Duck was excellent, we had a number of moving speeches and shared some memories and experiences of our travels. We were without doubt a varied group of individuals comprising of Students, Teachers, Labourers, Businessmen, Housewives, Care Workers and Retired Pensioners. Our eldest walker was Kristine from Dalry, 75 years old and walking like a 25 year old. Our youngest was Paul, 17 years old but mature beyond his years.

Back to the hotel for farewell drinks, a few tears from some and more shared stories. It is difficult to explain how much is shared during hours of walking.

Early rise tomorrow for the trip home.


Woof! Cant stop wagging my tail now I'm free again! Yes its Puppy here!

Not long left the Simitai Lodge after a comfortable night’s sleep, all the oldies seemed to be complaining about the lodges but I finally had my own bed and didn’t have to put up with dads smelly feet again!

We cross a big suspension bridge but even some of us dogs don't like heights so I ran on before we got any cool pictures! I'm not taking chance after the week I've had!

Today was the longest trek yet and I opted to hitch a lift for part of the route with Irene. I like a lazy weekend and this Trek should be no different - thanks Irene! Had to drink a lot of water during the walk and had to take a toilet stop in a one star toilet - it made the Ayrshire pavements look good! Dont worry - dad always bring a wee scooper when we're out back home!

It's brilliant to be finished the trek! We took a little time today to relax and enjoy a well earned celebratory beer. Sadly I'm still worried about the ransom situation - they want another 500Yen or I dont get to fly home seemingly. Please help!

We'll soon be heading back on the bus and I'd like to take this opportunity to say a big thanks to my fellow trekkers and everyone back home for assisting with my ransom down payment. Please remember I only have 1 day left to guarantee my continued freedom!


Trek 6!

Early morning start for today’s expedition which was the longest and toughest walk of the week.

I should probably start by explaining that last night’s accommodation was very basic. We were warned advised that warm water would only be available between 6 and 8am. Not only was it not warm, there was very little bloody water, the room was freezing and we were forced to sleep on what can only be described as concrete slabs. Substitute sleep for ‘tossed and turned all night’.

The conditions were the same for everyone else in our ‘Cell’ block with the exception of that pair of jammy dodgers, Graham and Stewart. Not only did they have heating but they had ALL the hot water! I still have trouble believing that Graham knocked back the chance of a hot shower although he did have a shave. Stewart, on the other hand, arrived for breakfast showered, shaved and shampooed.

Breakfast surprisingly was quite good, although basic. We then had to make up our own packed lunch. If only our wives could see us now!

After early morning exercise and tai-chi, we are now all experts at cutting the watermelon, we set off up the trail. The trek started by crossing a very precarious suspension bridge. The bridge was 100 metres long and 150 metres high.

Today proved to be an extremely challenging and testing slog and ranged from fully reconstructed wild wall to derelict almost impassable sections which required extreme caution. On one side of the wall we had stunning views over China and the other, equally outstanding views into Outer Mongolia. The camaraderie exhibited between members of The Ayrshire Hospice and St Andrews Hospice was very evident throughout all parts of the challenge but even more in evidence today as everyone had to pull together in order to get to the end of this experience successfully.

We had our packed lunch at Tower 8 and whilst it didn’t look too bad when we made it, rest assured it tasted exceptional after walking for two and half hours in blistering heat.

We encountered a number of Hello people on this stretch, and no we don’t mean the magazine was following us around, West Sound was as far as we have got.... for the moment! The Hello People are a local indigenous race of farmers who have found a niche in the market. They follow trekkers up the pathways offering to carry backpacks or trying to sell local souvenirs or cold coke beer, now there’s something I bet you haven’t tried before.

After 5 hours trekking we finally reached the end and there was a massive feeling of achievement all round and emotions were running very high. All the trekkers have their own personal reasons and sometimes very tragic stories which made finally reaching the end very poignant.

After a well deserved beer and congratulatory hugs and kisses all round we head back to the Radisson hotel via a Chinese Pizzahut. We need to apologise to the Chinese couple on their first date as 64 hungry bignoses spoiled their quiet romantic evening.

An early night for all, except for the bloggers!. We have a long hard shopping day in front of us.

Puppy Update

We've got him back! In order to take Puppy’s mind of his recent misadventure we decided to take him on our trek to Tower 12. Amazingly Puppy immediately indentified that this was where had been held hostage.

Puppy then took us through the route that Li Pengfei had taken once she had negotiated his release. This involved a 1000ft rope slide followed by an adventurous boat ride through treacherous shark infested waters.

Puppy then approved the blog update before having an early night to try and forget about his outstanding ransom balance.

Trek 5

Apologies for the delay in today blog but not we had no internet access at Simitai Lodge.

We have a long lie today before we head up to Simitai Lodge for an evening trek. We take a detour via McDonald however the bus wouldn’t fit thought the drive through so 64 of us queued for Big Mac and Fries.

Tough luck if you were a Beijinger on a restricted lunch break! We also had a walk through a local market area and Justine proved to be a real head turner. Blonde haired women are a rarity in china and to be surrounded by 4 big noses made it more of a spectacle. Chinese people refer to Europeans as big noses, we have been assured by our guides that is not derogatory!

During our walk we also finally found some bicycles in Beijing! We had already be warned that this Trek would be the longest and toughest and that our accommodation was going to be very basic. On arrival we discovered that it more than lived up to our expectations complete with cockroaches in the bedrooms. Time for the Insect repellent!

We had arrived at Simitai at around 3pm and after dropping the bags headed off to climb some of the wild wall up to Tower Number 12 which is over two miles away up a very steep incline that rises to 2500ft. Once again we have two options, the first is to take the cable car up to Tower 8 and walk to 12 or like we did, start at Tower Number 1 and head up. Whilst this is a very tough climb at least the height does give us the advantage of some more stunning views.

Although most of us did make good time on the way up, it was still touch and go to get down before we lost the light. One of the highlights of this climb is the incredibly spectacular views of 135 watchtowers at one time. Once we had climbed back down we had the opportunity to do a 1000ft rope slide. So we strapped up complete with rucksacks for an very exhilarating glide across the Lake.

To complete the last leg of the descent 14 of us boarded what can only be described as a tub designed to hold 6 people. Our Captain Pugwash lookalike then chugged us to shore. Thankfully we had no mishaps as there was 1 life vest between all of us. Daniel Craig eat your heart out.

One our fellow trekkers is Julie Shaw, the West Sound Radio Gardener. Before dinner she did a live radio link to Westsound and West FM to give an update on both the Trek and The Ayrshire Hospice.

Tonights planned meal is a barbecue dinner.


We are adding more pictures to our online albums folks, 2 new albums have been created today and other updated, plenty plenty more pictures to follow over the next week!

Feel free to tag people, comment and so on!

Shock News from British Consulate, Beijing

** Warning, some pictures you are about to see are not for the feint hearted and do contain disturbing images **

Following a very exhilarating and active day, it is with great distress we have to report our fellow Trekker, Puppy, has been puppynapped from outside our hotel. It is believed Puppy was bathing in the hotel bar at the time whilst the rest of his commandants slept upstairs.

At around 2pm local time, we received a ransom note from an organisation known as the Chinese PLA (Puppy Liberation Army) demanding 1000Yen for the safe return of Puppy.

Earlier in the day Puppy had accompanied the group for some glacier climbing followed by white water rafting before scaling the massive Zhentan Temple.

Local hostage negotiator Li PengFei has managed to speak to Puppy and after forwarding an Advance Ransom of a 300Yen the hostage takers have released images to reassure us Puppy is safe and well.

The puppynappers have given us until the end of the Trek, Saturday, to raise the full 1000Yen to ensure his release and allow Puppy to travel back to Scotland with us safely.

After raising the initial 300Yen ourselves we need the support of our friends and family back home to ensure Puppy's safe return!

So, please, please, please give generously to ensure Puppy’s continued safety.

To help, simply visit Puppy's Justgiving Page ( and help us achieve the 1000Yen randsom sum ... and of course.... help us support the great work of everyone at the Ayrshire Hospice for the next 20 years.

Your continued support is most appreciated.

Trek Four

Our resolve finally gave in last night (Wednesday) and faced with another Chinese meal, some of the team ended up in McDonalds. Big Macs, Fries and Large Coke all round, £2.50 each certainly did the trick.

After dinner we went for a game of Ten-Pin bowling. It would be rude and very unfair to mention who won the game - Chris :) - and who was whipped - John :( - but this was a good release after a long hard day. Puppy came 5th and unlike Chris never used the bumpers.

Today (Thursday) we went to the Black Dragon Pool Park where we spent the day trekking past gorges, waterfalls and pools with some very steep inclines ending in wild parts of the wall. It is difficult to believe that we were all walking about in light summer clothing when as you will see from the pictures we were surrounded by ice and snow. We had one brave, or foolish, trekker who dived into the freezing water. Ewan is another 007 in the making. The walk was extremely picturesque with some beautiful bridges and walkways albeit punctuated by some very amusing signs: “No Cyossing”, “Be Cayefull”, “No fires in the Fire Prohibited Area”, “Barter for Boating”.

Another packed lunch today and this was eaten in a Temple in a part of the Park that is not normally open to the public, 500m higher and largely unspoilt.

After lunch we then took a rugged route which took us higher up to wilder parts of the wall.

To give you some idea of today’s 12K trek, which took us over 2000ft above sea-level, typically each of us drank around 2.5 litres of water! This necessitated a toilet stop, this one was definitely one-star toilet!

We were given lessons on the coach today about Chinese Zodiac Animals. You may be interested to know the following about our featured trekkers:

  • Chris McMail - born in the year of the Snake. Wise, Romantic, Charming and Lazy! – Sound about right! (Ed - Guess who wrote this part of the blog?!)

  • Graham Kirkwood - born in the year of the Tiger. Very Straightforward Guy, Kind, Warm Hearted and Stubborn!

  • John McCallum - born in the year of the Monkey. Inventive, Original and Selfish!

  • Stewart Lindsay - born in the year of the Snake. Highly Developed Intituition, Humorous and Jealous!

    Tonight’s meal is supposed to be a better Chinese meal, find out tomorrow whether it was another big mac!
  • Blisters, Snoring and Smelly Feet!


    Good morning to all you folks back home in the UK, sitting with your feet up at your comfy desks or browsing from the luxury of your sofa! Today's main news is that I've a big blister on my front left paw. Any tips?

    As you regular readers will know I'm over here in China with my dad Graham as he couldn't be trusted to go on his own! We're now just over half way there and I cant wait to get home: I'm sleeping at the bottom of the bed, his feet stink, he's been moaning non-stop for days and his snoring is abhorrent. His big pal Chris is just as bad. A poorly Chinese local was scavenging for bottles last night and we gave her all our empty bottles from the bus. However, Chris also chucked in my big Bowl and I'm left eating off the floor now. Some pal him! Worse still, he won't tell us how much he sold them all for...

    I have to say, a tremendous effort has gone into the organisation of my big Dog holiday trek thus far, it's been one of the best walks I've ever been on after last weekends jaunt down Troon Beach. It's even better as all the oldies are just managing to struggle on each day while I'm cruising along and still hoping up the stairs despite my big blister!

    So I thought I better set myself a challenge - can all you generous fans back home help me, Puppy, raise £1000 for the Ayrshire Hospice? Now that's only a measly 1p for each of the steps I have had to climb so far!

    Please follow this link where you can sponsor me: WOOF!!

    The Third Trek!

    After yesterdays (Wednesday) trek we finished the day with a well deserved foot massage, we all went together with 3 female compatriots for an allegedly 40 minute massage which turned into a 40 minute comedy sketch. The combination of our lack of Chinese Language and their ‘apparent’ lack of English combined with the aggressive footwork led to a hilarious time which resulted in us having to carry Debbie back upstairs.

    The evening culminated in a group quiz which we decided to let someone else win. During the night we had what we thought was another medical emergency. Hazels room sharing partner Sandra woke in the middle of the night convinced that she was having a stroke as she had no feeling in her left arm.

    Now I should explain at this point that Hazel and Sandra have had previous nocturnal episodes.

    On the first night Hazel was kept awake by Sandra’s incessant snoring (another snorer, maybe we should swap rooms and her and John can snore together!) The second night Sandra was kept awake by Hazels Gibbering (hmm, maybe rooms should stay as they are!).

    Anyway I digress, Sandra, in the middle of her supposed stroke decides that the best course of action is to waken Hazel (at 5.00am in the morning!).

    She cannot just shout her (cos she has had a stroke), and being a first aider she recognises that as the stroke is on her left side it will have affected her speaking. Now, and I make no apologies for digressing again, I would have tested out this unable to talk theory by trying it but no, Sandra decides that although it will have affected her talking it will not have affected her singing so she decides to hum a few bars.

    Realising that this wasn’t working and remembering that she had been in the doctors room the previous evening (more info on THAT story as soon as I am able to get it!) and that his room number is 212, Sandra decides that if she uses hand movements with the arm that is not asleep to spell out his room number then Hazel will make the enormous leap and know that she is in trouble.

    Yeah, sounds logical to me too!

    Hazel at this point does wake up and glances over to Sandra. She is faced with the imposing figure of Sandra, arm hanging over the bed, saliva slavering from her top lip humming a few bars of “The Yellow Rose of Texas” and doing a good impression of Ted Rodgers (3-2-1)! Not a pretty sight.

    I did remind Hazel about the importance of taking pictures of these events, then again maybe not! These St Andrews Hospice folk are a strange, yet entertaining lot...

    Today’s trek takes us though stunning rural countryside to Mutianyu. This trek will end by climbing 500 steps to one of the Towers on this reconstructed wall. This stone staircase has been named the ‘Stairway to Heaven’, due to the steep climb and incredible height.

    The views can only be described as ‘wow’ and it is difficult to explain how breathtaking it is without actually being there.

    The start of the trek starts with two options a cable car or 1000 very steep steps, obviously we took the steps and have named these, the ‘Stairway to Hell!’ and we have the pictures to prove it. This undulating journey goes through a number of towers before reaching the final stairway.

    There is a definite feeling of achievement and camaraderie as we reached Heaven and there are a number of group photographs taken to the resounding tune of Flower of Scotland! There was a definite feeling of bonding as the final achievers were cheered to the summit.

    Lunch today was alfresco, we were provided with a packed lunch at the outset of the trek and after yesterdays disappointing lunch opened it with a degree of intrepidation. We needn’t had worried, after 3 hours trek to a height of 2500ft in blistering hot conditions in excess of 70 degrees, the lunch was Manna from Heaven.

    Options for coming down were cable car or luige. The luige is a crude form of toboggan down a 1000ft slalom slide at exhilarating speed, except of course if Stewart is in front of you. I suspect that this is one of the only times that there has been a traffic jam on the luige. We enjoyed this so much we decided to take the cable car back up to the top for faster trip with Stewart at the back.

    Mr Jobsworth on the gate insisted that we would have to buy new entrance to the wall even though we were only going on the luige. Negotiations were going badly until we took the bull by the horns and declared ‘No way pal!” at which point he took the approach of least resistance and capitulated.

    It is very obvious that there are vast differences in wealth in China and this was even more apparent today when as we were driving out of the car park, a local peasant woman was collecting used water bottles for selling.

    Over the last few days we have collected hundreds of bottles in the coach. Under threat of mutiny we forced the driver to reverse and we offloaded some of our collection. We left one old woman thinking that all her Christmas had come at once.

    PS Puppy's just been on the 'dog and bone' - the internet connection's down in the kennels at the moment but he's hoping to have a few tour snaps for you all by UK lunchtime!

    Sore Paws

    Puppy here! Had a hard days walking yesterday but managed to make it to the end of the trek. This was even more remarkable as I feel like I slurped up a few too many drinks from my big bowl on Sunday night - had to try and fit in with everyone else though!

    The first days have been hard going - struggled on through some deep snow (well, it was deep for a wee pup!) and up many hundreds of big 'man steps'. Chinese doggy biscuits are tasteless too. Grrrrrrrr. The conversation has been a little dull at times (I should have known!) however credit where its due as the rest of the group have managed to keep up with my pace.

    Best part of the day was my Starbucks latte, extra skinny of course, at breakfast.


    Trek 2

    Breakfast, and I use that term very loosely was Chinese style which for a lot of people consisted of 2 fried eggs and a coffee unless you like steamed seaweed or dumplings to help you start your day. Roll on Lunchtime!

    Today (Tuesday) was yellow t-shirt day, the shirts were sponsored by Graeme and Janie Reid. A big thanks for that although we did look like a busload of canaries as we set off.

    A 30 minute coach trip to the Dayingpan area of the Great Wall today and an absolutely stunning trek. The area we visited was largely untouched and is rarely visited. This was a massive difference from yesterday’s tourist spot and although this was a tough trek, the breathtaking views made it very worthwhile.

    We got a family history from another of our tour guides, he informed us that he started talking at the age of 18 months, unfortunately for us it seems he hasn’t stopped since!

    This section was built in 1520 during the Ming Dynasty and whilst it been untouched since then and generally in a state of disrepair, it was originally the benchmark section whereby soldiers were brought here to be shown the standard expected elsewhere. Despite being untouched it is still an imposing structure. We reached heights of 4500ft and were able to see the wall snaking through the vast countryside.

    Locals talk about the wall being a Giant Dragon and this part is referred to as the Dragon with no Skin as through the decades the indigenous people have pillaged the stones to build homes and gardens.

    Most people found today extremely tough going but ding ding (very very) good, We got four seasons of weather ranging from sun, strong winds, snow storms and very cold at times. We had a very steep climb across generally gravelly ground very uneven and definitely not fir for transport. We reached the wall after an hour and a half before climbing up one of the military entrances. You can tell these were made for Chinese people as they were very small.

    This part of the wall is not for those vertigo as there are parapets on this section and too easy to fall over the side to a 60ft drop in places.

    After a very strenuous walk we were ready for lunch, unfortunately today’s food didn’t really come up to scratch – Roll on Dinner!

    The guys had a liquid lunch – soup and beer!

    The First Trek

    Early rise this morning (Monday), although I am pretty sure that no one would have slept much with John’s snoring!! Honestly I thought that we were on the flight path for Beijing International Airport.

    We have a short coach journey this morning to start our walk on the Juyong Guan Pass. The coach trip takes us past the Birds Nest Stadium and Olympic Village. The Chinese built 34 stadia for the games and most of these are now available for use by the Chinese People. The area surrounding the Birds Nest, where all the competitors were housed, is massive. One of main hotels is built in the shape of the Olympic Torch.

    We also pass the Velodrome where Chris Hoy and the rest of the cycling team were so successful.

    This section of the wall was constructed in the Ming Dynasty in the 5th Century and is one of the main tourist areas consequently it was like Sauchiehall Street on a Saturday afternoon.

    We are starting in a gully at the bottom of the pass and our local guides take us through a series of warm up exercises before we head off. The site of 64 people in white hospice T-shirts, all doing their own version of Tai-Chi is a site to behold and attracted many onlookers. Stretching complete we strap on the day packs loaded with fun-sized Mars bars, 2 litres of water filled platypus and the occasional hip-flask. Liz and Graham have an interesting conversation about Graham platypus’s, Liz was suitably impressed with the quality although she thought it was a bit smaller than what she is used to!

    Today’s climb although not that long is very steep, stone steps of varying sizes leading up to the top of the pass, around 2060ft and a good test for the cardiovascular system.

    There are a large number of Chinese tourists from other regions, they have a strange custom whereby they like having photographs taken with other people. At the end of today we start to understand how Posh and Becks feel. No more photographs please!

    I think everyone agreed that descent down the pass was very hard going, the stone steps were very steep and daunting up to 18 inches deep at some points. Everyone had shaky legs from stretching muscles that haven’t been used for a long time. Justine reckoned that was the best her knees had trembled for a while.

    So sore legs all round and most people glad they had walking poles although Graeme Reid had problems with his pole extension fortunately Janie managed to help him out, in fact she has offered to assist anyone who has trouble with their pole during the trek.

    The weather today has again been mixed, very warm while walking although we had snow flurries nearer the top. The views have been absolutely stunning particularly at the Summit. Back down in the gully there were a series of mock terracotta warriors, another good photo opportunity and as you can tell from the pictures Christine has a thing for a man in uniform!

    Lunch at a local restaurant was preceded by an impromptu Chinese Dragon Dance complete with drums and a glass of 56% proof firewater.

    Went for a walk before dinner down the ‘Fukang’ Road and considering that there are allegedly “9 Million bicycles in Beijing” the streets are very very quiet.

    Generally it was a quite dinner, a lot of tired legs. Early night all round.

    Celebrity Status

    Accompanying us on the trek is a little canine friend of the Kirkwood family, known as ‘Puppy’.
    Puppy belongs to Graham’s daughter Zara and is rapidly becoming a bit of a celebrity over here.

    We’ll keep you up to date with some of the weird and wonderful places Puppy visits in his own online album, here.


    P.S. There is no truth in the rumour that Puppy was sent along to carry Graham every second day, honest!


    Thanks for all the comments so far from all!!!

    Going forward, can you add comments to the latest blog posting please as the older postings will be archived... and we don't want to miss your great words of inspiration!

    Right, time to dig out that duty-free again...


    Finally arrived in Beijing and its snowing!

    So much for the reassurances from the travel company that the winter season will be over by the time we got here. According to our Chinese liaison (Vicky) they have only had snow twice in the last 2 years.... lucky us.

    This wasn’t the first time that previous advice turned out to be flawed. “you won’t need yen currency” we were assured. Try telling that to the girl in starbucks who made John pay for two cappuccino’s with his credit card.

    Our tour consists of two groups, 30 representing Ayrshire Hospice and 34 from St Andrews Hospice in Airdrie. St Andrews have been on previous treks whilst Ayrshire are trekking virgins. St Andrews have never had any casualties, this time we had 2 casualties before we even got off the plane!

    We had one individual suffering from severe back pains and another who was removed from the plane by paramedics and as I type is still in the local hospital, although as we understand it he is doing fine.

    The things some people will do to get out of this walk!! Seriously, we are all thinking about you Tony.

    Out total flight time was 10 hours punctuated by a 3 hours stop off in Amsterdam (and a couple of beers).

    This building cost 5 billion Yen to build which is approx 500 Million Sterling.  The building next to it burned down last year during the fireworks festival because they had a long dry period prior to the start of the festival.On arriving at Beijing, John, Stuart, Graeme and I had our first (but definitely not last!) falling out!. I mean how hard can it be to work out what the local time would be in the UK. Easy unless you take into consideration that some people adjusted for the time difference in Amsterdam (Yes John you definitely did!), the 7 (or is it 8 Graeme!) hour time difference in China, the GMT adjustment in the UK (yes it is this week Stuart!), throw in couple of beers, Bacardi and a nice little Spanish rioja and you have got carnage!

    Checked into hotel and headed straight out for lunch at a local ‘Chinese’ restaurant. We have now all decided not to ask what we are eating until after the meal has finished as it seems to be a subject of debate, even amongst the staff in the restaurant. According to Vicki the Chinese will eat anything that flys apart from Aeroplanes and anything with legs apart from tables! There are not a lot of stray dogs and cats about!

    After lunch we headed to Tiananmen Square. The area is steeped in history and is quite clearly a place of respect by all Chinese People. Chairman Mao, despite what history has proven, is revered and his body lies in a massive mausoleum where 10,000 Chinese People visit daily.

    The square itself is the size of 16 football pitches and is patrolled and guarded by Chinese Soldiers.

    Weather wise, today was quite strange, it went from being bitterly cold to being very warm. The sun was out all day but Beijing is covered in smog which the sun cannot always get through. It is also quite strange to see people walking about with Michael Jackson facemasks on.

    Back to Hotel after the square, someone thought it would be a good idea to go the bar in the hotel to get some mixers for the duty free. 4 Cokes and 4 Sprites were the equivalent of £27! This order was quickly cancelled and a prompt visit to the local supermarket for the same order cost £2.50!

    A quick change and out for dinner at a local ‘Chinese’ restaurant for our welcome dinner where we were given the itinerary for the rest of the week and had an enjoyable meal which included a birthday celebration for Janice Gallagher. Happy Birthday Janice.

    Early night tonight as first trek starts tomorrow.

    Cheers from the Guys!!


    Day 1 - Saturday, 28th March

    Depart Glasgow (1125) on a morning flight to Amsterdam (arriving 1400) connecting with flight to Beijing (1740). Arrive in Beijing Sunday morning (0955).

    Day 2 - Sunday, 29th March

    Meet the Trek Guides and transfer to the Hotel Yuyang. Lunch followed by a tour of Tiananmen Square. Welcome dinner and briefing in the evening.

    Day 3 - Monday, 30th March

    The Great Wall of China Trek begins! Check out early and transfer by coach to Juyong Guan Pass. Today's trek will be around 2 to 3 hours in a circuit, which is tough going and steep in places. From the high points of the Wall views of misty mountains fade far into the distance. Lunch at a local restaurant and transfer to the Changping Hotel for the next two nights.

    Day 4 - Tuesday, 31st March

    Another early breakfast before departing for the Dayingpan area of the Great Wall. This section of the wall was built around 1520 during the Ming Dynasty. A very varied day of trekking along the wall and through fields. Lunch at a restaurant en-route to the hotel. (4 -5 hours)

    Day 5 - Wednesday, 1st April

    Early check-out and transfer through stunning rural countryside to Mutianyu. Trek up steep stairs to reach the entrance gate of the Great Wall trekking to tower 14 on reconstructed wall and continuing for another 6 or 7 towers on wild wall. For the final steep descent there will be the option to try the 'luge' - a 1000 ft from top to bottom! Some free time in Mutianya before transferring to the Shi Hao International Hotel for 2 nights. (5 hours)

    Day 6 - Thursday, 2nd April

    Transfer to the Black Dragon Pool Park where we spend the day trekking past gorges, waterfalls and pools, leading us up steep inclines to reach a section of wild wall. Lunch is a picnic by a temple. Today's trek is steep in places and at times very tough going, but punctuated with stunning scenery and a temple in the sky. (6 -7 hours)

    Day 7 - Friday, 3rd April

    A well-earned free morning and a late check out! Lunch en route to Simitai. After 2 - 3 hours in the coach check-in to the Simitai Lodge. Optional 2 hour walk up to the entrance of the Simitai Wild Wall where there are incredible views of 135 watchtowers at one time.

    Day 8 - Saturday, 4th April

    The last day of the Challenge! Trek for around 5 hours from Simitai to Jinshanling with views of China on one side and Mongolia on the other. A wonderful day of trekking in which around 15 towers are truely Wild Wall. Emotions run high as the group takes its final steps off the Wall and the challenge comes to an end. The transfer back to Beijing is 2 - 3 hours with a western dinner en route to the Yuyang Hotel.

    Day 9 - Sunday, 5th April

    Free day with the option of visiting the Forbidden City and the Silk Market. Celebration dinner at the legendary Peking Duck Restaurant.

    Day 10 - Monday, 6th April

    Homeward bound! Transfer by coach to the airport for the morning flight (1140) to Amsterdam. Arrive in Amsterdam (1555) for early evening (2105) connection to Glasgow (arrive 2140).

    Featured Trekkers

    Chris McMail

    Started Microtech 23 years ago, March 1986, not really sure if I will stick it!

    Microtech provides IT Products and Services to both GP Practices throughout Scotland and a wide range of corporate organisations.

    I live in Seamill and have been married to my beautiful wife Anne for 16 years and have two kids, Caitlin (9) and Nicole (5). Caitlin is in P5 at West Kilbride Primary and Nicole will start there in August.

    Anne is actively trying to restore consumer confidence and sees the overdraft as a target rather than a limit, which she easily reaches every month. Whilst really looking forward to this adventure I am not looking forward to being away from my family for 10 days or having to make amends! Massive thanks to Anne for supporting me and tolerating the visits to the gym and 3 hour training walks.

    The Ayrshire Hospice has been our nominated charity for a number of years and training for the trek has been a good excuse to get (reasonably) fit.

    Graham Kirkwood

    I work for Bridgend Garage at our Irvine site which specialise in Mitsubishi Motors. I have worked for the for 31 years full time and a few years part time before that. Married for 15 yrs to Jacqueline have a daughter Zara aged 4 and 1/2 going to school in August this year. Lived in Irvine for 11 years now but both of us originally from Kilwinning. Jacqueline works for Scottish Power in Bellshill.

    No hobbies but we all love to travel long-haul as often as possible. Have done work for the hospice for some 10 years now.

    John McCallum

    Live in Seamill and have been happily married to Kathleen for the past 16 years. We have two fantastic kids Nathan (9 )and Elise (7) who keep us busy.

    Left the Pearl Assurance rat race after 14 years and set up an independent financial consultancy in West Kilbride JMC Financial Services in 2003, Love life, fun, fast cars, red wine and cultivate my autistic tendencies (or so Kathleen says) by being passionate about anything I do.

    Think the hospice is a great charity and I am delighted to raise money for them at any opportunity, although on this occasion the list of shopping requests in Silk Alley may make a dent in my pocket and suitcase. Guess the tolerance of my alarm at 6am to go to the gym has its price!

    I would like to thank everyone who has sponsored me for their generosity and hope I can count on it again for Kilimanjaro in February 2010.

    Stewart Lindsay

    I have been happily married now to Ann for 30 years and we have 3 fantastic children, Sharon, Craig & Iain who have all made both of us very proud.
    We also have 2 dogs Lucy & Jax who have both walked as many practise miles as I have. Unfortunately, the goldfish can’t come on my practise walks.

    I am self employed and I have worked in the Petrochemicals & Oil & Gas industry for most of my working life, spending much of that time offshore on various installations and projects. I have more recently spent my working life in foreign climes including Norway, Holland, UAE, Philippines & Azerbayjan and am about to take up another challenge in Algeria after completion of the Great Wall of China Trek. It’s a great way to see the world and appreciate other peoples cultures.

    For much of my life I have been involved with The Boys’ Brigade in Stevenston and finally Kilwinning as Captain.

    This “China Trek” as it has affectionately become known will be a first for me and I am not really sure why it particularly prompted me to “do it”. I guess all you have to do is take a trip across to the Hospice and see the peace and tranquillity that is abound there and perhaps you can understand why it is so important to many people. I have been amazed at the response that I have received whilst working towards my fundraising goal. I have run a Football Coupon which has raised the lions share of my sponsorship.
    Along with a Supper Dance late last year, sponsorship within my current work location and some very generous family & friends, this fundraising experience has been a very enjoyable one.

    Thanks very much to everyone who has sponsored and supported me, I promise I will try not to let you down.

    Justine Cullen

    I live in Ayr and have worked as a Fundraiser for the Ayrshire Hospice for the last 5 years and volunteered 10 years prior. I was nominated by Louis Jardine, Fundraising Manager to organise and undertake this exciting challenge - the reason for this could be because I am the fitness fanatic of the office and visit the gym regularly. Wish the Great Wall of China was on the flat and I could run as the thought of all these steps makes me cringe just a bit!

    There are 30 trekkers in our group including myself. We have undertaken practice walks over the last few months and I now think the Carrick Hills was dawdle compared to what we’ve let ourselves in for.

    I would like to say a BIG BIG thank you to all the trekkers for their commitment and dedication to The Ayrshire Hospice and a special thank you to all who have supported them. I am a Fundraiser at heart and will always try to seek out donations so on a personal note I would also like to thank my family and friends for their support and to let them know that they can stop dodging me now!