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!