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!!