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you can get down is on your bottom — it was nothing like we imagined it would be. “You never walk more than 10 strides on the flat before climbing or descending part of the Wall. And some sections of the Wall are missing, so you have to scramble around the side of the mountain.” And there were other surprises in store here. Katherine explains: “Snakes and spiders all make their home along the wall so you’d be on your [walking] sticks trying to navigate something and the guides would shout ‘look out, snake!” But the payoff was worth it. “The view from the Wall is absolutely breathtaking, nothing can prepare you for it. It was just like being on top of the world in some sort of mystical, magical world,” she says. During their long days walking it was normal for the group to go for hours without seeing another person. “Apart from a few locals and farmers there was no one at all,” says Katherine. “The locals were lovely, very friendly, but they know tourists have money so be prepared to pay them for their help.” This included carrying bags and fanning the exhausted walkers during breaks. “It was amazing seeing what light work the locals made of the Wall,” adds Katherine. “We were kitted out in our walking gear and they were strolling along in plimsolls!” Each night the group would descend en

masse to their lodge to eat, freshen up and recharge for the next day. “We would have dinner and then just collapse,” laughs Katie. “Sleeping wasn’t easy as the Chinese like super-hard beds; it was just like sleeping on a step with no give whatsoever. “And although you feel physically shattered, the experience is so incredible that your brain is wired, processing everything you have been through during the day.”

‘A mind-blowing experience’ After five days Katie and Carol successfully completed their 40-mile trip. “It was such an incredible feeling of achievement,” says Katie. “Although it was far more challenging than we imagined, we loved every minute of it.” The duo spent a few days in Beijing before venturing outside the capital. “Beijing is an experience,” says Katie. “Everywhere you go you are watched, documented and monitored. You have to show your passports to officials and get out your paperwork. It is an extremely strange feeling.” For this part of the trip Katie and Carol had two Chinese tourists guides with them, something Katie strongly recommends. “I don’t think it would be possible to get around safely without hiring guides,” she says. Following Beijing the girls took an overnight train to Xi’an, home of the famous Terracotta

Army, before flying down to Cheungdu, site of China’s most famous panda reserve. “It’s always been a dream of mine to see the pandas,” says Katie, “and it was a mindblowing experience. The Chinese treat their pandas like we do our Crown Jewels. “They are such adorable animals and it was wonderful to see them and how they are looked after. I was fortunate to be able to hold a 14-month-old cub called Sa, the only survivor of triplets.” After 12 incredible days in China, Katie and Carol have been reflecting on what the trip meant to them. “Raising the money was very important to both of us, but the trip had a bigger affect,” admits Katie. “It’s helped me open up my mind to new ideas and brought me back to what really matters in life.”

Katie’s highs and lows

Highs • The scenery • Realising other — often very different — worlds are out there • The comradeship between our group. We were all very different, but we got on fantastically Lows • The sheer physicality of the Wall. It’s something you can’t prepare for until you are there

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november 2014 | suss exstyle .c o m | 8 7

Sussex Style Magazine November 2014  
Sussex Style Magazine November 2014  

Lifestyle Magazine for Sussex