t gets to the stage where life is all about work. You need to head out and see the world.” So says Katie Wilson, owner of popular Hove fashion boutique Walk In Wardrobe, when explaining the motivation behind her trip to China in September. “My friend [fashion stylist] Carol Ives and I were chatting earlier in the year about doing a charity trek. We both like to support various charities and we thought a walk was a different way of raising money,” Katie explains. “We did lots of research before settling on China. Although Carol is well travelled neither of us had been there before, so we thought it would be a real experience. When we found out you could organise treks along the Great Wall, we were sold — if we were going to do it, we might as well do it properly!” The 40-something duo picked two Brighton good causes to support — Rockinghorse Children’s charity and the Martlets Hospice — and began training in earnest. “We would be walking 64km [40 miles] over five days, so we knew training was important,” explains Katie. “We both live in Shoreham, so we’d meet up at least once a week for a long training walk over the Downs and do shorter walks individually throughout the week. We started training six months before setting off.” But despite sticking rigorously to their schedule, disaster struck just days before the
pair was due to depart for Beijing. “We’d done a long walk to the Seven Sisters in awful conditions,” says Katie. “It was such hard work — it finished me off. “A few days later I was in terrible pain. I went to the doctor and was diagnosed with plantar fascilitis [inflammation of the underside of the foot and heel] and told that under no circumstances should I go to China.” But after six months of training and almost £2,000 raised in donations, there was no holding Katie back. “I found a doctor who was happy to give me a cortisone injection, which I had five days before we left. During the trek my foot was extremely painful. I had to take painkillers every four hours and lie with my feet raised. “But it was worth it,” she laughs.
Out of this world
Katie and Carol walked a section of the Great Wall that loops around Beijing. The experience started as soon as they landed in China’s capital city, home to a staggering 22 million people. “There were people everywhere,” Katie says. “Times Square looks deserted in comparison. You can’t imagine how so many people can live in one place.” Within hours of landing Katie and Carol had met their tour guide and faced the Wall for the first time. “You can’t prepare properly for the Great
Wall,” she admits. “It is absolutely staggering, just thousands and thousands of steps. The enormity of it took our breath away. “We were walking in a group with 24 others and after we first saw the Wall we were in shock,” she says. “We said to each other, ‘what on earth have we done?’ Even though we were strangers we bonded over the fear!” Each day comprised of five to eight hours walking, with the itinerary being carried out with military precision. Accommodation was in lodges — “basic but adequate” — dotted along the Wall’s path. “Our lead guide was like a sergeant major and very strict with us,” laughs Katie. “It was a bit like boot camp.” Each morning the group would stretch before walking, make packed lunches — typically consisting of Marmite and peanut butter sandwiches, processed cheese, a piece of fruit and a small cake — and be reminded of the importance of staying hydrated. “Although the temperature varies wildly in the hills round Beijing, staying hydrated was crucial, so our guides drummed this into us as well as the importance of regular-high protein snacks and carb gels. I ended up living on the latter,” Katie explains. And that first experience of the Wall? “It was like nothing you could imagine,” says Katie. “The sheer number of steps, some small, some huge, some narrow, some you have to clamber up and some so steep the only way
Great escape When Sussex fashionistas Katie Wilson and Carol Ives walked part of the Great Wall of China for charity, they had the experience of a lifetime, as Karen Spinner discovers
86 | s u sse x sty l e . c om | nov ember 2014
Lifestyle Magazine for Sussex