Leave your expectations and preconceptions behind. A country of complete contradiction, China is inviting yet unfamiliar, modern yet steeped in tradition.
From simple rural villages to bustling urban cities, China simultaneously takes you back to a time of ancient civilisations and transports you to a technologically charged future. Beijing, the Forbidden City at its heart, is dominated by modern skyscrapers and crisscrossed by charming ancient alleyways, bustling with the vivacity of a thousand years’ past.
Skyscrapers make way for natural and ancient wonders as you travel beyond crowded cities. From vast deserts and snow-capped peaks, to boundless grasslands, voyage into the rich natural history of one of the world’s oldest continuous civilisations. Whether trekking the Great Wall or pondering the timeless expressions of the Terracotta Warriors, China is sure to inspire, excite and humble any visitor.
Check out the calendar to join one of our incredible China adventures!
Arriving in Hong Kong in late November 2016, Charlie Bartlett, Inspired Adventures’ former Fundraising Manager, flicked the kickstand down on her Vivente bicycle for the last time. It was one of thousands of stops that year, but certainly the most significant. It marked the end of a six-month cycle journey that had taken her, and cycle partner Sam, from Ankara, Turkey over the hills and mountains of Iran, Armenia, the ‘Stans (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan) across the changing landscapes of China and finally to Hong Kong.
At a time of year when many resolutions or promises of adventure are made, we hope the tale of Charlie’s epic cycle will give you the reminder you might be needing right now about how to say yes to adventure. And who doesn’t want to know what it’s like to rock up to a family’s home in Iran and sleep on their couch? We certainly did!
You cycled from where to where?!
Ankara to Hong Kong (I think it was about 13,000 km), but not entirely sure. It wasn’t about the distance or getting to a certain point, really.
Where'd the idea come from?
I first decided I wanted to do a cycle tour whilst walking the Camino de Santiago in 2009. I saw people doing it on bikes and thought it would be a great way to see a country and cover more ground. However I only seriously decided and started planning for my cycle tour about six months before I left. (Editor’s note: This might not work for everyone – but moral of the story is, don’t overplan or overthink it!)
When cycling you are so exposed to all the elements and therefore so many more exciting things can happen. You go places you would probably not go in a car and cover more ground than walking. You also experience so much kindness from strangers: beds for the night, food, good company, etc.
One of the reasons we love cycles so much - you really get a feel for a place and can cover so much ground. Okay, you must have faced some challenges being on the road for six months?!
Of course. A few were:
-Camping in the cold and cycling with no gloves and socks in the snow.
-Having a funny stomach for about three months and living on Snickers in Tajikstan.
-The attention I got as a woman and clothing requirements.
I am used to not really having home comforts and being on the move a lot so I enjoyed most of it but when its wet and cold camping is not as fun. However it makes you appreciate the small things more and I learned that I don’t need much to be happy and that I prefer warmer weather to the cold. 🙂
In terms of highlights, what was the best part of the cycle?
Pretty much the whole trip. I learned so much, saw so many beautiful places and met so many wonderful people. It was also so great to just be reminded of what’s important in life and to not get so caught up in all the small things.
The realisation of how lucky I was to be able to take six months off and travel to which ever country I chose. This was unheard of in most countries I travelled through and really reminded me what a luxury it was to most of the world.
Any words of advice or tips?
If you are thinking of doing something similar just do it! You will always find an excuse not to take an adventure on like this, so just do it and you will work out everything else along the way 🙂
Ok, bonus question: best food?
All the food in China was AMAZING!!! Being a vegetarian was pretty much impossible in the ‘Stans so I was in heaven when I got to China with all the tasty fruit and veg.
Check out our upcoming cycles (you don’t need six months!) to delve into a new culture and have a great adventure for a cause.
Cause: SANE Australia Adventure: SANE Australia’s Great Wall Challenge Social: @madcowsdiary
As our Adventurer of the Month, Amanda has scored herself a $100 Paddy Pallin voucher! To be our next month’s winner, make sure you’re uploading your journey to social and use the hashtag #IveBeenInspired.
A photo posted by Mad Cow (Amanda Cox) (@madcowsdiary) on
What inspired you to take on your Inspired Adventure with SANE Australia?
It was a combination of things really. I LOVE adventure and was looking for something exciting to do this year, and I really enjoy long walks in exciting places. I have wanted to visit the Great Wall of China since I was about 10 years old, and for the last decade and a bit, I have been an avid advocate for mental health, and particularly that of mums. A friend had recently done a trek to Peru with Inspired Adventures, so I did a bit of research and found this one; it was like all my personal planets aligned. I absolutely had to sign up.
(The lure of a duck dinner at the end of our trek, which also happens to fall on my birthday, was just a bonus!)
How are you feeling about the challenge ahead? Have you ever been to China before?
I’m really excited. A little anxious I may not have the fitness levels required to trek without slowing everyone up, but I think my excitement and anticipation for the trip will make up for that. I hope so anyway! I’m fascinated by the history of the area and of the Wall itself, and I just think the whole experience will be incredible.
I have been to Shanghai before – I was chosen to be a Live Positively Ambassador for a large global corporation, and was invited to visit a few of their corporate spaces in Shanghai. It was mostly a business trip, so we really only got a few hours to explore the city. It was amazing – as were the dumplings, which I still get cravings for even six years on.
"It is a constant reminder that I am making a small difference to someone and that support services like SANE Australia are very much needed"
What have been some of the highlights of your fundraising experience so far?
I’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of some people. It’s really inspiring. I’ve also found people quietly opening up about their experiences of mental illness, and although that doesn’t really relate to fundraising, per se, it is a constant reminder that I am making a small difference to someone and that support services like SANE Australia are very much needed. It’s a little overwhelming and very humbling, but also extremely fulfilling.
A photo posted by Mad Cow (Amanda Cox) (@madcowsdiary) on
What have been your biggest challenges in taking on an Inspired Adventure? How did you overcome this?
I think my biggest challenge has been ensuring I can do enough training for the trek; I don’t want to struggle along but want to be fit enough to really absorb the whole experience. I work full time, and have a small writing business on top of that, I have three boys and a husband, too. So my days are busy.
I’ve overcome it by prioritising my need to train, and incorporating walking into my commute to and from work; each week I get off at a train station earlier and walk from there, and have pretty much set up a small wardrobe of work attire at the office to make life a little easier.
I also take the family along with me on Sunday adventures walking wherever we can (you can follow that progress on my Instagram, with the hashtag I’ve created especially for this #MadCowSANETrain). We get to spend time together, and I get to train – they pretend they hate it, but they don’t really.
Have you noticed any changes or transformation in your life since taking on your first adventure?
I have a lot more of a positive outlook on things, and have much less time for drama and negativity in my life. I also feel a lot more excited and inspired about lots of things – the proverbial “just do it”, which I have adopted because I’m just so busy and working towards a lot of things I’m enjoying doing, has taken a priority in my thoughts, which has been great.
Having the desire to do the trek as easily as I can has really meant I just do the training, even if I don’t feel like it, or it’s cold or raining, or I’m tired … and this attitude has spread to other areas of my life. I love it.
What are you most looking forward to about your upcoming adventure?
What I’m really looking forward to is feeling the whole experience. When I walk in places with incredible views, I just immerse myself in those moments, and that’s what I’m looking forward to. It’s almost overwhelming, and just an amazing sensation. That and being supported – and supporting – others as we go, people with similar desires to make a difference around a cause that is so important to me.
I also have to add – dumplings and duck! I’m so looking forward to those things!
"I feel a lot more excited and inspired about lots of things"
What advice would you offer to other people looking to complete a challenge like this?
I’d just encourage them to do the training, and keep the end goal in sight. Take it one step at a time (pardon the pun!), follow the recommendations for both the training and the fundraising, and just ask for help and support. Surround yourself with people who are willing to help you achieve your goals, and connect with like-minded people who are willing to accompany you as you do the physical training.
As for the fundraising – I’m of the belief that if you don’t ask, the answer is always no, so just ask and keep asking.
Be adventurous … it makes it all more fun.
Become our Adventurer of the Month to win a $100 Paddy Pallin voucher
Take a picture whilst on your adventure or when you’re training and use the hashtag #IveBeenInspired and your adventure hashtag. The most exciting use of the hashtag, with an adventure, and fitness focus will be our Adventurer of the Month – it’s that easy!
Cause: National Breast Cancer Foundation Adventure: Steps Towards A Cure 2016 Social: @parislaura
As our Adventurer of the Month, Laura has scored herself a $100 Paddy Pallin voucher! To be our next month’s winner, make sure you’re uploading your journey to social and use the hashtag #IveBeenInspired.
What inspired you to take on your Inspired Adventure with NBCF?
I have always fundraised for the NBCF in the past, holding biggest breakfast events during October each year and attending other events. I attend these events in honour of all the survivors of breast cancer and those who have not been so fortunate. As women, we need to look after each other and do what we can to find much needed cures and less invasive medical procedures for those diagnosed.
What were some of the highlights of your fundraising experience?
A huge highlight for me was how my friends and family rallied around me to support and encourage me to raise my funds. I held a number of small events, but believe it or not my biggest fundraising success was selling chocolates and snacks. I set up a ‘tuck shop’ at my work where I sold cans of drink, packets of chips and chocolates. From just chocolates alone I raised about $2,000! I luckily had the support of the people I work with to keep them supplied with sugary treats.
What was your biggest challenge in taking on an Inspired Adventure? How did you overcome this?
When I signed up to trek the Great Wall of China, my biggest challenge was that I was not fit enough to take on such an adventure. So ten months before the trek, I changed my lifestyle completely, began eating healthy and increased my exercise. I started seeing a personal trainer who worked on building up my strength in both legs and upper body. I would walk up and down 17 flights of stairs every day at work just to build my muscle tone. On the trek in China, it was hard physically, but my determination saw me complete all 5 days on the wall.
"As women, we need to look after each other and do what we can to find much-needed cures and less invasive medical procedures for those diagnosed [with breast cancer]."
Have you noticed any changes or transformation in your life since taking on your adventure?
I have realised that if I can manage to trek The Great Wall of China for 5 days, then I can do anything!
I met some amazing and inspiring people in China, everyone was willing to help out and everyone got along together. Our tour guides and Inspired Adventure’s Team Leaders also kept the team together and kept everyone motivated. Oh, can I also mention that The Great Wall of China was a pretty damn impressive thing to see? I liked that I got to see sections of the wall that the every day tourists would not normally bother to go and see.
What advice would you offer to other people looking to complete a challenge like this?
No matter how fit you are, keep pushing yourself to do better before you go. The fitter you are, the more fun you will have on the adventure.
Become our Adventurer of the Month to win a $100 Paddy Pallin voucher
Take a picture whilst on your adventure or when you’re training and use the hashtag #IveBeenInspired and your adventure hashtag. The most exciting use of the hashtag, with an adventure, and fitness focus will be our Adventurer of the Month – it’s that easy!
Throughout history, China has been shrouded in an aura of mystery and exoticism. Even now with many cities like Beijing and Shanghai becoming more accessible and welcoming to foreign visitors, traditional customs are alive and strong. In fact, some of these traditional customs mean the norms of life and respectful behaviour in China can seem to be the exact opposite of those in the west. So to avoid some serious shock factor, we’ve put together a few cultural pointers that you should know before travelling to China to avoid giving or taking offense unnecessarily!
1. A good meal is a loud one
If a local invites you to dinner, expect a noisy, bustling restaurant rife with chatter and, of course, an abundance of food. In fact, such an atmosphere is called rè nao (热闹), which strangely enough translates to ‘hot and noisy’, and means a lively vibe that guarantees a good time. The Chinese also tend eat with (comparatively) noisy gusto, with occasional slurps and other sounds. They just don’t seem as particular about eating and chewing noises (though you shouldn’t go to the other extreme, either!)
It’s also worth remembering that mealtimes are communal. Everyone eats from the same dishes at the centre of their table, often with their own chopsticks. Every now and again, hospitable hosts may even drop special morsels in your bowl. If you’re not comfortable with this, try asking for an extra set of ‘public’ cutlery for sharing the food.
Other tips for a successful meal:
Never finish off your plate or empty your glass as it shows you’re still hungry or thirsty (even if in reality you’re totally content), and prompts your host to fill it up!
Don’t stick your chopsticks upright in a bowl. It’s extremely bad luck because it resembles a tombstone offering.
Thank your host for refilling your glass by tapping the table with your index and middle finger.
2. Your love life is everybody’s business
Get ready to be asked some personal questions, like “how old are you?” or “are you dating?” or “when will you get married?” Marriage and family are extremely important to the Chinese and when you throw a strong sense of community into the mix, you can see why asking these sorts of questions can be considered as innocuous as asking “what do you do?” Think of it as a friendly, if somewhat blunt, curiosity.
While not many appreciate being on the receiving end (even locals!), you can see where it may come from. Elders are held in high esteem and hold a lot of authority in families. Likewise, parents have traditionally been responsible for finding a spouse for their children. To this day, it’s common for anxious parents to play matchmaker. So it makes sense that finding a partner is very rarely a private or individual concern.
Speaking of nosy questions, other topics like salary and cost of living aren’t taboo either. Anyone can ask you these questions - from taxi drivers to shop keepers. So consider yourself warned!
3. Shield yourself from the sun at all costs
When you see the Chinese out and about on a sunny day, you’ll see many umbrellas out, along with other (sometimes more elaborate) ways of protecting themselves from the sun. It may seem strange to think that complementing someone on a sunny glow could be offensive, but the Chinese are definitely an exception. Interestingly, within the western world, tanned skin was not considered beautiful until as recently as the last eighty years.
In China and many other Asian countries, pale skin is considered appealing, as it’s a sign of prosperity and wealth. Throughout history, fair skin has been revered as one of the classical signs of beauty simply because those that could afford to stay indoors stayed fair, instead of working on the fields. This deeply ingrained idea continues in modern society. You can find all varieties of sun protection from hats and full sleeves, to whitening creams, lotions and gels.
Other tips for what to expect:
Squat toilets are still the norm in many areas. It’s the healthier way to use the bathroom, but you will want to bring your own toilet paper, as it’s not always supplied.
Don’t drink tap water – have it boiled or purchase bottled water for around 2-5RMB.
When crossing the road, don’t assume cars or motorbikes will stop for you, and check both directions. Pay careful attention to how locals cross and stick to large groups of people.
It’s not uncommon for large families to all live under the same roof, and we’re talking 3 or 4 generations worth! Familial ties are extremely important in China.
If you have blonde or red hair, expect to receive a lot of attention when in public. People will openly stare are you and sometimes even point you out to friends and family by sticking their finger in your direction. Don’t be offended, the Chinese are just curious!
Spitting and mucus clearing are common in China. Just go with the flow. Although interestingly, the government is trying to encourage citizens to abandon this habit as it’s quite unhygienic. You’ll find the younger and more urbanised Chinese people won’t engage in this habit!
But most importantly ...
… remember to have relax and soak it all in! Don’t be too preoccupied with not committing a faux pas. Just remember to keep an open mind and enjoy the experience! One of the joys of travelling is the eye-opening encounter with another civilization. The Chinese are forgiving with foreigners, and will be delighted if you make the effort to speak a few words and even try to use chopsticks. So good luck, and have fun!
Both intricate and incredibly compelling, Beijing, China is one of those cities that leaves travellers stunned but likewise craving to experience more.
Beijing has recently received a bad rap due to its uninhabitable polluted skies. Interestingly, however, Beijing improved its air quality in 2015 despite the red alert that was placed on the city in December 2015. Now, China still continues to face pressure to reduce smog and make cities more livable for its citizens and the tourists who flock to visit this fascinating country.
We’re here to say don’t be put off by Beijing’s air quality. If we decided to not visit a country because X, Y and Z ‘bad’ things are currently happening there, we’d never leave our homes. And, as a country that is quickly developing and unfortunately losing much of its history due to the influence of Western modernisation, now is one of the best times to visit.
So why should you visit Beijing? Here are just a few reasons:
Though Beijing is rapidly becoming overrun by Westernisation, it still retains much of its inherent Eastern culture, typified by its stunning zigzagging Hutongs, an important part of Beijing’s local culture. Built in the 13th century, the Hutongs are in fact small public alleyways with private courtyard residences. If you want to experience the ways of old Beijing, Hutongs are it, offering a window into the traditional way of Chinese life.
798 Art District
A former arms factory, the 798 Art District has become synonymous of how old Beijing is being transformed into a modernised capital. Once a place for new artists to exhibit their work, the 798 Art District’s rising popularity caught the attention of the international art world which pushed the starving artists out who created the whole scene. Today, the district attracts art buyers and students, as well as many tourist groups.
You absolutely cannot go to China without taking the time to stop for a cuppa. Steeped in a rich history, partaking in a traditional Chinese tea ceremony is a must – along with a visit to Beijing’s thriving market where you can purchase all the oolong your suitcase can handle.
Chinese take-out once a week is a bit of an Aussie stock-standard, and for a good reason – it’s such a diverse and delicious cuisine. Now imagine eating a meal of Peking duck from where it all began, or authentic street-food that is peppered with Szechuan spices. Or you could try something completely new like the market food pictured below!
If that’s not your style, check out these restaurants for a tantalising and inexpensive feeds:
Little Yúnnán Address: 28 Donghuang Chenggen Beijie, 东皇城根北街28号
Beijing boasts a history that goes back more than 3,000 years. There are plenty of historical monuments and sights, including the Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, the Ming Tombs and the mausoleum of 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. However, there are some places that you shouldn’t leave Beijing without visiting:
The Great Wall
Winding its way from its strewn remains in Liaoning province, to the Gobi desert and the sands of Xīnjiāng, The Great Wall is one of the most impressive sights in the world. Trekking the Wall is one of the most majestical and authentic ways to experience its beauty, however marvelling from afar is a breath-taking experience too.
Spanning around 440,000 sq metres, Tiananmen Square is the world’s largest public square. To stand in Tiananmen Square is to stand at the symbolic centre of the Chinese universe. Interestingly, despite being a public place, the square remains largely in the hands of the government, monitored closely by TV cameras and policemen. Despite the lack of seating, the Square’s iconic status means few people leave Beijing without making a visit. For an extra special experience, try visiting Tiananmen Square at night and watch its lights illuminate the dark sky.
If architecture is more your thing, don’t look past the Forbidden City, which harbours China’s largest collection of ancient buildings and the biggest palace complex in the world. Previously off limits for 500 years, the ethereal palace was home to two dynasties of imperial rule until the Republic overthrew the last Qing emperor. Now open to the public, don’t miss the chance to visit these insanely beautiful quarters.
Whether you’re after a city escape to the mountains or love the hustle and bustle of the ginormous metropolis, Beijing has it all. The rural plains in the southern provinces are a stark contract to the sprawling metropolis of Beijing, offering a quieter and more peaceful experience. Or, if you’re more of an adventurer at heart (and aren’t we all?) there are many mountain ranges found in Western China you can trek.
Just remember: explore China with an open mind and an open heart. It’s true that visiting this country is one of the biggest cultural shocks you’ll face, however if you go in remembering that different cultures are what make the world amazing, you’re sure to have an enriching and wonderful experience.
See all of our adventures to Beijing and trekking The Great Wall of China!
After a long flight we are finally in Beijing, China! This morning we met Jason our local guide and our driver Mr Chang. Jason explained how he got his nickname “Lucky J” from when he chose his English name. He closed his eyes and randomly pointed on a list of names and was lucky to have picked a boys name.
Despite most of us only stepping of an overnight flight an hour or 2 earlier we made our way to the Temple of Heaven.
As we wondered through the beautiful manicured gardens of the temple observed a regular meeting of parents who were advertising their children’s details and interests in hope to set them up on dates as the children are too busy to meet partners. Our group found it fascinating and peculiar.
The Temple or Heaven was magnificent! A beautiful building built with no nails only joining wood and painted in stunning colours.
After this we got our first taste of local cuisine for lunch and rested our tired traveling bodies.
This evening a few of us braved the confusing intersections and ventured out for a wonder around Beijing still pinching ourselves that we are here. At dinner we tried some unfamiliar dishes such as bullfrog which was one of the less intimidating choices. We have some brave women on this trip! Can’t wait for tomorrow.
Saturday 24 October
Had a lovely lazy start to the day to insure we were well rested ready to start our journey on the wall tomorrow. Today would be a day of sightseeing around Beijing.
We boarded the bus and headed to Tiananmen Square. “I just can’t believe I’m here” said adventurer Pauline. We braved the busy underpass from Tiananmen Square to the entrance of the Forbidden City. The forbidden city was an impressive sight that served as the Chinese imperial palace for 600 years. We soon discovered that the beautiful buildings weren’t the only popular attraction, as more and more locals asked us to take photos with them. Not surprisingly mind you as we were quiet obviously the most attractive group around 😉 !
After hearing many stories about the emperors and the concubines that lived in the quarters over the centuries we practiced our stair climbing to the top of Jingshan Coal Hill to see the sun set over the Forbidden City. The view was spectacular with a 360 degree view of Beijing.
At dinner the conversations flowed as we get to know each other more and more. We feasted on many wonderful local style meals. One of the meals we couldn’t easily identify so Ange asked a waiter if it was duck or pork he brought her a fork! Haha!
An early night for the team tonight as we begin our journey on the wall tomorrow where the real adventure begins.
Sunday 25 October
This morning we got up early to begin our first day walking The Great Wall of China. We met our assistant guide Peter who was quiet obviously a kung fu rockstar who walked the wall everyday.
We traveled 2 hours out of Beijing City to Remnant Badaling. As the skyscrapers and heavy traffic turned to rolling mountains and trees we began to realise what we were in for as we saw the Great Wall weaving over and around the towering mountains.
We readied ourselves and set out to brave the cold and the never ending stairs and steep slopes that seemed to stretch up and down at impossible angles. As we caught our breath from time to time on steep inclines the breath taking views where worth the challenge.
As promised Jenny, Ange and Lou wore their tiger and dragon onesies on the wall. Jenny and Ange wore it for the whole journey to be “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon”. However they weren’t as inconspicuous as the ancient proverb suggests.
Exhaustion or delirium from what felt like millions of steps left us finding the angles in which we needed to position ourselves to stand up on the steep slops incredibly humorous. And the sight of the bus as the end of our first day on the wall far too exciting. Once we reached the hotel we were less pleased to see the 4 flights of stairs to our hotel rooms.
At dinner, there were more conversations as we expressed how we are feeling so far now that the walk has begun, and what we hope to get from the journey. It is obvious that the group is connecting well and as the team leader I am very impressed and humbled by the compassion, support and courage of the women I’m sharing this journey with.
Monday 26 October
Today is day two on the Wall!
After breakfast, we transfer to Shihuyu Village, our starting point for today’s trek. From here, we follow a small dirt road that zigzags up a slope to the Great Wall, enjoying spectacular views en route. Upon reaching the Great Wall, we will take a moment to catch our breath and to admire endless mist-shrouded mountain vistas in the distance and the immense Xishui Reservoir below. While some sections remain unrestored and overgrown, this morning’s trek is relatively gentle. In the afternoon, we follow a restored section of the wall, navigating more steep ascents and descents. In the early evening, we leave the wall and transfer to our hotel for a well earned rest!
Tuesday 27 October
Day three on the wall began with some weary legs. Unfortunately Teresa needed to stay at the hotel to rest her knee which was swollen and sore from a fall yesterday so she could join us. The rest of the group carried on up another bushy climb from Xizhazi Village to reach the wall Jiankou. We passed a sign that said “take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints. Keep the wall wild and wonderful.” This resonated strongly with us as we have committed to respecting the wall and have felt its wildness and beauty.
The wall started overgrown and rugged and slowly undulated to a more touristy end of the wall Mutianyu that was full of day trippers. People who still looked fresh and improperly dressed for a 5 day hike passed us. It’s our 3rd day into a 5 day trek we justified to people who didn’t ask. We remember a quote we heard our tour guide day yesterday “you will never be a true hero unless you step on the wall” – by Chairman Mao the founder of New China.
Poor Lou got stung by a wasp, she has been a trouper on this trip, not a great fan of heights and overcoming challenges everyday. “When I need a hand I get 22! Everyone is so helpful. I couldn’t do it without them!” said Lou.
In the end we made it through! One of the most entertaining moments of the day was when Pauline mounted a cannon she found on the wall, channeled her inner Cher and burst into “if I could turn back time”.
Finally after well deserved showers and some sitting down, we headed to dinner for a break from the local food for pizza! When we arrived a chorus of groans as we discovered we needed to walk up two floors of escalators that weren’t working. None the less pizza and icecream was had (not quiet the pizza we were expecting….durian pizza for example #why and chocolate and strawberry pizza #mindblown)
Wednesday 28 October
Our longest day on the wall! Today was 7 hours of beautiful views and rocky bush tracks and lots of achievements.
Teresa joined us again so it was great to have the full team together. At our starting point at Gubeiku we inherited 2 ‘wall wives’. The wall wives are local villagers who travel to the wall everyday to help the foreigners cross the wall. At the end they will ask you to buy their souvenirs, they were very kind and helpful so we happily bought a few things.
Pauline found a much bigger cannon to sing Cher songs on. Definitely more impressive and just as funny as yesterday.
“Feel the serenity” is right! What a view!!! Perfect weather and bright blue skies meant for another breathtaking experience that required thousands of photographs! Angela’s tiger onsie made another appearance to reflect the crouching tiger or Woho mountains towering around us.
We eventually made a diversion off the wall and through a dense forest to bypass a military area. We passed an abandoned hut and some locals’ farms. Peter our assistant guide told us about some of the history of the Mongols and China and that most of the bush we traveled through would have been burned down to provide easy sight of the land and possible invasions. He also showed us wild China dates that grew on the trees around us. (They were sour but yum and hopefully won’t ruin the rest of the trip for us!)
Lou again conquered her fear of heights crossing high and narrow parts of the wall with a steady head! We are very proud of you!
More songs were sung and photos where taken and we rejoined the wall at Jinshaling. By this time the team where ready to go home but they don’t call this a challenge for nothing and we powered on until we saw our heavenly bus to take us to where we could get horizontal.
As we bussed back to our hotel for the evening we saw a glimpse of the wall lite up with lights in the distant mountains. A bright brilliant curving light resting on top of the mountains. Specky as!
Thursday 29 October
Congratulations today is your day! Your mountain is waiting so get out on your way!
Our final day on the wall was quite a feat. We were to trek from Gubeikou to Wohuhan. ‘One big up and one big down’ they told us. And it was very up and very very down in parts. So down in fact that surely they didn’t realise how down it was. So down in fact that a few of us decided to go around!!! Another beautiful view and stunning weather for our last day wondering through the mountains.
We had lunch next to the wall and a Kung Fu lesson from Peter to finish off our incredible journey on the Great Wall of China.
We traveled back to Beijing in peak hour traffic and were amazed to be missing the wall already! Jason our guide took us to an acrobat show which was wonderful. For dinner we had a free night; some were weary from the journey and chose to enjoy their comfortable rooms. Some braved the freezing weather and adventured out to see what they could find!
I can’t believe the courage and determination of the group to complete the 5 day challenge. They supported each other so compassionately and willingly. I have been humbled to see accomplish so much and learn from such strong and capable women.
“On you will hike and I know you’ll hike far and face up to your problems what ever they are. So be sure when you step, step with care an great tact and remember that life’s a great balancing act.” (Dr Suess)
Friday 30 October
Our last day together.
This morning we traveled into a very local area of Beijing to travel around in traditional rickshaws around the charming Hutongs. We were hassled by a very determined local trying to sell Rolexes. We visited a local family home where we learnt about the area and the ancient and now rare art of inside painting (Neihuahu) were they paint detailed pictures on the inside of bottles.
We climbed a few more steep stairs because we weren’t sure if we had done enough over the last 5 days to a drum tower for a birds eye few of the city.
After lunch we traveled to the 798 art district located in the Dashanzi area. Originally it was an area that produced electronics but has now been renovated into a giant art space full of interesting shops and galleries.
After freshening up we went out for our final dinner as a group! We feasted on delicious peking duck amongst a mountain of other delicious food. Beer, wine and stories were shared. Toasts were made to each other as we have connected and supported each other faster and more than many of us had anticipated. This is our last night together on the this trip and in a way a its sad but also in a way it’s liberating to be able to feel so accepted and cared for so quickly. As adventurer Casey wrote “I couldn’t have been luckier to have done this trek with this group of amazing women including my mother. We started this journey as likeminded strangers but will walk away as life long friends.”
Winding its way across the north of China, from the Yellow Sea to the Gobi Desert, the Great Wall of China is one of mankind’s most impressive accomplishments. Experience the Great Wall in all its glory as you trek between mist-covered mountains, into local villages, across rolling farmlands and through dense forest. Explore the many facets of the Great Wall, deciphering the ancient stories and poems etched into its watchtowers—every brick seeming to tell a story of war and adventure.
Swapping the majesty of the Great Wall for the hustle and bustle of Beijing, be immersed in China’s confounding and contrasting culture. Discover the ancient history of the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven, experience the poignancy of Tiananmen Square and marvel at the modernity of the 798 Art District.
Day 1: Beijing – Jingshan Park and Tiananmen Square
As we descended into the bustling city of Beijing, the team was excited to witness the sights and sounds of our new surroundings – we had arrived! After we freshened up in our rooms, we had a traditional Chinese lunch together and it was the perfect welcome to Beijing. We then headed to Jingshan Park where we met a true Tai Chi Master who taught us the five basic moves of Tai Chi. With our balance and “chi” levels centred, we walked through Jingshan Park to the highest lookout where we saw the spectacular view of the Forbidden city juxtaposed against the new skyscrapers of Beijing. After such a jam-packed first day, the team had some free time in the evening to relax or explore.
Day 2: Temple of Heaven and Forbidden City tour
Today was a busy day full of sight seeing and enjoying the beautiful city of Beijing. After breakfast, we headed to Tiananmen Square, getting our first taste of the melting cultural pot that typifies Beijing. We then headed to The Forbidden City. Hero, our local tour guide, told us stories of emperors, empresses, and Chinese heroes making the city really come alive. Then it was time for the Temple of Heaven, which was just beautiful.
Day 3: Taipingzhai to Huangyaguan
After breakfast, we drove to the Eastern Qing Tombs. These ancient tombs are the final resting place for many emperors and empresses. This imperial mausoleum was fantastically preserved and echoed the lives of the imperial families. The team walked through the marbled tomb that was etched with Buddhist carvings and decorations. We even saw the coffins of the ancient imperial family.
We then headed to a local restaurant with typical dishes of the region and stocked up on some energy and sustenance to begin our walk! After having a quick power nap on the bus during our transfer, the team was excited to take their first steps on the wall and we enjoyed setting a pace for the coming days of the trek.
Day 4: Gubeikou to Jinshanling
Today’s trek started at Gubekou. We walked on some of the beautiful and unrestored sections feeling like we were the only people for miles…because we were! We stopped for lunch and a quick photo op – it was hard to pick which backdrop to choose as all were spectacular. After a quick rest and some ice cream at a convenience stall on the wall (we were surprised too!) we finished our last leg of the day before enjoying some drinks and dinner.
Day 5: Jinshanling to Simatai
Today we trekked up steep slopes and scaled down crumbling sections of the wall. It was tough, but everyone powered through and rose to the challenge. We enjoyed beers along with farm fresh produce for lunch at a local restaurant.
Day 6: Simatai to Mutianyu via Jiankou
This morning after breakfast, we had to hike up a steep mountain to reach the wall. The plunging drops and unrestored terrain meant that we had to focus and work as a team to finish the trek. At the end of our trek, it was time for some fun! Half the team enjoyed a scenic ride down the mountain on a cable cart while the other half enjoyed a toboggan ride. Once we reached the bottom, we transferred to our hotel for a delicious group dinner.
Day 7: Huairou to Huanghuacheng and Beijing
After an early wake-up, we transferred to the starting point of our final day of trekking. We stopped for lunch at a local guesthouse where we refuelled on local trout, fried wild vegetables and many more delicious local delicacies. After a quick transfer, we headed for our home stretch. We panted and persevered up many stairs until the final step off the wall! After a quick ice cream, we transferred back to Beijing and enjoyed a relaxing celebratory drink and meal.
Day 8: Hutong tour & 798 Art District
Swapping the wall for the city, after breakfast we headed to the 798 Art District. We strolled around the city and saw some weird but wonderful contemporary art. After a mighty lunch of incredibly tasty peking duck, we jumped aboard rickshaws and cruised through the tiny lanes of Beijing’s quaint and charming hutongs.
Ready to tackle the Great Wall? See our departure dates here!
Peter Carter generated a great deal of fuss around his ‘Pedal for Pandas’ cycling adventure in Sichuan Provence, China. From his fundraising achievements for WWF Australia to his cycling prowess, this 84-year-old has shown that age really is no limit to taking on a challenging adventure that makes a difference to a cause close to your heart. Peter was gracious enough to do a short Q&A before his adventure. We’re happy to report that he’s since successfully completed his Pedal for Pandas, with some photos from the adventure below.
What motivated you to take on the Pedal for Pandas 2014?
Rather than take self-indulgent holidays, I like to do something useful for the environment, for native species, pest control or for human kind. The WWF Australia Pedal for Pandas presented this opportunity. Also I like keeping fit and this is a big part of why I am able to function physically at my mature age (84). One of my veterinary colleagues had a key role in WWF years ago and that made me think more about this particular organisation. I have not worked for WWF before but have given my financial support through monthly donations for several years as well as contributed extra donations for special requests.
Why is animal advocacy important?
I think it tragic that so many beautiful species have become extinct through no fault of their own. Extinction of native species is a result of humans taking over their habitat and through indifference and ignorance of the importance of native areas in maintaining human health and morale.
Other than pandas, what is your favourite animal?
I chose to work for fifteen years with dairy cows and later having left veterinary practice, we kept Jersey milking cows for our own home use. They are beautiful animals and I enjoy their association—but then all animals have their special virtues.
How can we make a difference and protect animals?
Other than curbing the ever-increasing global population (human), a good way to help animals is to support people who are already doing a good job of protecting and improving native areas and species. It is great that we have many dedicated people now involved in animal care.
You have done exceptionally well with your fundraising. What is the secret of your success?
I have a daughter with marketing and computer skills. So called “social media” has been the main reason for achieving a good result. I hope it is not finished yet and I will improve on the amount already fundraised. I thought I might have to have something like a “Panda Party” and run some social functions but now I may not have to! While I do not expect any concessions based on my calendar age, other people are very impressed and amazed by my performance. I guess this is because most people of my age are either dead or suffering nasty illnesses. I believe this has been an important factor in my fundraising success.
What am I looking forward to?
I am keen to get close to and learn more about pandas. I am also looking forward to meeting the people on the Pedal for Pandas and I find I like riding bicycles—they are simple and marvellous bits of machinery. I am certainly enjoying the marvellous bike tracks that abound around Melbourne as a much appreciated side benefit of my fitness training for this adventure.
Imagine standing on top of the Great Wall of China. The crumbling rocks drop away dramatically on both sides and the hills roll away into the distance in greens and blues, as far as the eye can see. The meandering wall snakes across the crest of the hill, twisting and turning to the horizon. The manmade monstrosity is striking in contrast to the undisturbed nature, yet its 2000 years of existence have gently welcomed it to the surrounds. The only thing you can hear is the gentle crunch of rock underfoot from your fellow teammates and new friends and the flirtatious wisp of the breeze, cooling the warm air.Anyone who has experienced standing on the wall will understand why this place is so magical. Since Inspired Adventures launched its first adventure to the Great Wall of China in 2006, over 170 passionate fundraisers have embarked on this adventure of a lifetime, raising over $750,000 for charities across Australia in the process.Originally, independent Kingdoms built sections of wall as lines of defense, and it was not until the Qin dynasty (221 – 207 BC), some 2000 years ago, that the wall was joined in its entirety. The Great Wall of China stretches over 8,000 km across the southern edge of inner Mongolia, from its scattered remains in Shanhaiguan in the east to Lop Lake in the west. Now, some sections have returned to dust and the wall may have disappeared entirely had it not been for the boom of the tourism industry in recent decades.Perhaps somewhat ironically, the Great Wall never really did serve its purpose as an impenetrable line of defense. Guards could be bribed and it was used more as a highway for the transportation of goods across the country’s expanse.
Unsurprisingly, this emblem of Chinese history has become a popular destination for both the Chinese and travellers abroad. Trekking the Great Wall of China with Inspired Adventures is the perfect opportunity to escape the tourist crowds. You will venture far past the ‘do not enter’ signs, and hours will pass without seeing another living soul. You will experience both restored and unrestored sections of the wall, offering a striking reflection of the weathering effects of centuries of history.
Whilst it is one of the least physically demanding Inspired Adventures, trekking the Great Wall of China it is not a challenge to be taken lightly. The trek itself usually spans across 5 days, during which the team cover about 40 – 45 km. Days vary in difficulty, some long, snaking and undulating, others shorter and more intense. One thing is for certain though and that’s the steps. There are lots. Big ones and small ones. Fat ones and thin ones. Strong ones and crumbly ones. Steps of all stretches of the imagination.
China is a country blessed by an array of seasons. The Great Wall is at its best in the spring and autumn months, when the sun warms the surrounds and the days are pleasant, while the evenings offer a gentle reprieve from the heat of the day. It is not advisable to trek in the peak of summer due to the intense heat, and is, surprisingly, impossible to trek in the winter unless you’re prepared to wade through snow-covered hills.
It takes a special kind of person to take on an Inspired Adventure. If you would like an adventure of epic proportions, the Great Wall of China will be sure to exceed all expectations, and what better way to experience this wonder of the world than with a team of like-minded people who have all fundraised for an incredible cause.
Ready to witness one of the Seven Wonders of The World? Check out our upcoming adventures in our 2018 Calendar!