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Chris Woolmams / Catherine Woollams
V4I4 - Walking The Great Wall Of China

Reports From Our Brave Participants

The Great WallThe GroupThe Great Wall

Joss Vining - Sturminster Newton, Dorset

At the end of October 2005, 20 intrepid adventurers flew to Bejing to accomplish the task they had set themselves during the previous 12 months, ie raising 3000 each for CANCERactive, and walking for five days on little known parts of the wall around Beijing. We were awestruck by the splendours of the contours around us and the seeming impossibility of our task. Some parts were 4-5 metres wide, and in good repair, but much degraded to mere tracks with loose pavings and boulders strewn about.

The Great Wall

At the top of each hill or mountain stood a watchtower, with a steep rising of uneven steps up leading to them. The longest walk on one day took us to 46 hilltop watchtowers; the highest one (number 43) saw us climbing 103 steps at an angle of 70 degrees. It took several gulps and a fixed stare to kneel on the first high step and keep going to the top. Unfortunately having reached the top I was too exhausted to get my camera out, for which I have kicked myself ever since.

Three of the four nights were spent under canvas, in varying states of comfort and efficiency. But a marvellous Chinese team, named Small Steps, looked after our needs, cooking delicious English and Chinese food, erecting the camp each day, and once even supplied us with a shower, or possibly a tepid drizzle! Luxury indeed.

To mark the finish of our walk they even provided a welcome home with several explosions of Chinese crackers, and a finishing line that we all walked through, consisting of a string flying several CANCERactive T shirts.

I have carried home marvellous memories of warm friendly people, an awe-inspiring country, and a grand set of newfound friends.

Sue Booth - Yateley, Hants

The Great Wall Guide

What an amazing experience Walking the Wall of China was. Firstly for me a truly memorable eight days that stretched most of us physically and emotionally. Outstanding terrain with magnificent views in copious amounts. We were able to have an insight into the Chinese way of life that you would not have got on a standard holiday. I loved the camaraderie of the 20 walkers, not forgetting our trusty ´Doc´ Kirsty and our incredible guides based in China. Nothing really prepared me for just how emotional I would feel.

I made the decision to undertake this challenge to keep not only the memory of Catherine alive but also my dearest mother Shelagh who died of the same cancer 24 years ago. I was hugely impressed with all who travelled with us, from the youngsters who leapt up the wall like mountain goats, to the oldies who took things more sedately. I think walking was more like mountaineering, but was thrilled that we all made it and in turn raised lots of money for a fantastic and worthwhile charity. Where are we going next?

Lindsey Fealey - CANCERactive office

My 50th Birthday was this April and I was determined to make the year of my half-century, one to remember. Family and friends to celebrate my milestone and trips to Dublin and Prague, with my husband and close friends. A weekend in Paris with my eldest son and his mates and VIP tickets to see and meet Coldplay (they were at university with James). I have even plucked up courage to have a tattoo that I have been wanting for years - why not!

The Great Wall Group

And then there was China - the great wall! My husband Patrick and I have been training for months - he´s even given up red wine! Yes, we have been planning the inaugural trek of CANCERactive for well over a year and felt it poignant that the day we were scheduled to go turned out to be the first anniversary of the death of Catherine Woollams, co-founder of CANCERactive and eldest daughter of Chris, my first cousin. How much easier it felt knowing that Catherine was with us in spirit throughout the trip.There were many moments when I thought I might not be able to go on, yet I could hear her voice egging me on.

When we reached the top of the highest watchtower, the very highest point of the wall, I stood and looked across the landscape ahead - a sight so awesome, so beautiful, so impossible to describe to anyone who has not had the chance to be there. The photographs just can´t do it justice! What an experience and what a tremendous achievement for everyone. An arduous but exhilarating week - a lifetime experience. Twenty people thrown together from all walks of life aged from 17 to 67 years old. Some people more fit and able than others, but nonetheless one team with a common goal. A goal now accomplished by every one of us.

Jolene Forsyth - Edinburgh

The Great Wall Start

When I decided to take part in the trip to China, I had no real idea of what it entailed. I had all sorts of weird and wonderful ideas of what it would be like but I´m not sure that any of them were even close! When we all first met at the airport I was so nervous, not knowing who or what to expect but by the time we had been chatting for a few hours at the airport I felt much more settled. Unfortunately we were delayed and missed our connection in Paris but that didn´t really seem to bother us too much; it was a good bonding session!

China itself was amazing; the walking was not as hard as I had anticipated! The only real issue was doing a pee but we all managed to get over the embarrassment of squatting at the side of the wall quite quickly (we didn´t really have much choice!) There was an amazing sense that we were part of a team; when we had our down moments there was always someone there to egg us on. The camping was a bit chilly but thankfully I had a great "roomie" to keep me laughing about the lack of hygiene, privacy etc! All in all, an amazing trip and a big thank you to the CANCERactive team for making it all possible; it can´t have been easy!

How About You?

Would you like to trek for CANCERactive in 2006? Open treks are planned for:

7-14 April

22 April- 2 May

2-10 September

5-14 October

16-26 November

25 November-4 December

Call us for more details on 01280 821211.

We are also planning a trek in the spring of 2007 - venue to be decided. Is there somewhere you particularly would like to go to? Call the CANCERactive office NOW (01280 821211) and let them know.

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