Hello. I’m back from my Great (in)SANE Inspired Adventure.
I’ve been back almost a week. It was today, a week ago, that we left Beijing, after first scouring the markets for the final time, and pee-ing off a lot of market stall holders; this time, we’d learnt to haggle and haggle well!
I don’t think they were prepared for us.
So … “how was it?” is the question I am oft asked. Which is fair enough, too 🙂
Honestly. I really don’t know how to answer that adequately, other than just say “amazing” without elaborating.
How do you articulate the magnificence of it all; of the structre, the landscape, the immensity, the atmosphere of the Wall itself?
I’ve attempted “It’s just the vibe of the thing”, but that’s not deemed a terribly suitable response. From my perspective, that’s what most adequately sums in up.
How do you describe the sheer audacity of its creators and constructors? The unfathomability of the project itself? Just how incomprehensible it all seems when you see it in real life?
Not to mention the fact that right there, in the middle of some tower you’ve just walked kimometeres of steep, uneven, man-made terrain, there is a shop selling noodles, tea, coffee, Coca-Cola and beer. Manned (personned) by a local villager, who has walked to their ‘job’, carring all this stuff.
I know this doesn’t answer your question, so I’ll try my best.
We only traversed the areas of the Great Wall (Chángchéng – pronounced best in our Aussie strine as ‘chung chong’ – meaning ‘long wall’) around Beijing, and had the experience of both the commercial ares, the ‘wild wall’ which has been untouched, as well as everything in between.
Although the photos you see on Google don’t show it, each day we did was very different from the previous. The photos just show you a big long wall, with lots of steep inclines and declines, uneven steps, and surrounded mountainous ranges.
It is that, and it is so much more than that. Each day was a new, and very different challenge and experience. The terrain varied, the inclines where steeper each new day, and the atmosphere is just difficult to explain. Absorbing thousands of years of history is something you can only experience, in person.
At times, I was a little overwhelmed by it all; by the fact I was even there, not to mention the feat I was personally undertaking, of others in my group, and of the Chinese who built the thing in the first place. To my own detriment, I restrained this emotion. To allow it to its full extent would have left me a blubbering mess, such was the level of overwhelm. I allowed it to a point, but I had to contain it.
I was in awe at the magic that we were witness to; the skill of the builders (and possibly the artchitects and engineers), although I am still unable to fathom how they managed to construct it as they did. I came to the conclusion at one point, as I crawled my way, literally, up an incline of approximately 60 degrees, that they really didn’t like their own army and/or citizens.
The personal exhiliration as I reached the top (of that particular little incline) was incredible. Until, of course, I looked up and there was several thousand more kilometres ahead of me. That I could see. I’m sure there was more beyond that.
More than all of this was the exhiliration I got to share of others in SANE Australia’s Great Wall Challenge Team. The physical and emotional challenges some had to overcome, and the support given them, and returned by them at other times, was shared by every other person in the team. Equally.
I also witnessed something that is so rare, so just not done in our society. I was part of a team that recognised when someone was not okay, for whatever reason, and saw a rallying around of support. Not judgement. Not fixing. Not ‘helping’ or giving advice or providing some ‘tough love’or being patronising.
Just genuine concern, care, and love.
I wished I could bottle that experience and distribute it freely to anyone and everyone.
Even that, I cannot articulate well. Although I imagine that those who have been on either side of that situation may have some idea of what it feels like; to be supported, genuinely, lovingly, and freely, or to be the one giving that support.
And the Team itself? I think you may have gleaned some idea of what they were like already, but they were an amazing bunch of people. Lots of different experiences and personalities, lots of stories amongst the ten of us. Despite the differences between us, there was no discomfit.
They were just a really awesome bunch. Loaded with humour, adventure, and compassion. I worried about the team dynamics before I left, and it was something that caused a touch of anxiety for me. I needn’t have worried. Not at all.
Our leader from Inspired Adventures, Laura, was just awesome. It was her first gig at leading a team, and we did worry about her mental stability by the time we finished with her. She seemed to cope well, and even laughed a lot.
Michael Wang, our English-speaking Chinese guide, was equally as fun, adventurous, and most importantly and appreciated, humorous. He had a great sense of humour, and gave as good as he got, whilst allowing us to experience the full … experience, for want of a better word.
The two of them were the cream and cherry on top of the team. I could not praise either of them highly enough, and the two of them together made the adventure that much more special.
We were also privileged to have Jack Heath, CEO of SANE Australia, along for the ride. He is an amazing man (also very funny; but what happens on the Wall, stays on the Wall, and we have all been sworn to a secret pirate code) with incredible experiences and compassion.
I think the adventure of walking along the Great Wall of China was amazing enough, but the people I did it with were an added bonus.
I would totally do it again, and I think the next time would be different again; knowing what’s coming up affords you the opportunity to focus a little more on the experience itself; of the surroundings, the feats achieved … and most definitley the vibe of the thing.
If you’re up for it, you can see some photos from the week on various social media, using the hashtag #GreatWallforSANE. My personal pics are on Instagram under @madcowsdiary and using both the aforementioned hashtag as well as my own #MadCowSANETrek (for I think I am going to do many more :))
I’ve also created a video of photos, however, as I attempted to keep it under 5 minutes and not subject you to a late 1970s-style slide show evening, it’s really just a teensy little snippet. It took me several days to create (and a reminder to myself that I really must stop playing battery-chicken with my laptop), so for those interested in more pics, I will endeavour to create more videos.
Of course you don’t have to watch them, just if you want to.