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Dear Ms. Mary Ma,
I am back from China now and would like to take a moment out of my busy schedule to let you know that your company and your guide Rogin Lee are fantastic. Rogine made my tour of China, his depth of knowledge is incredible and his presentations and introductions were indepth and interesting. Rogin presented China's past and present in a new light. This China tour with Rogin surpassed what I was expecting from any China tour company. I would like to extend my thanks to yourself, Rogin Lee and Mr. Wong, the driver.
Lee A. Gravesen
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We had an absolutely perfect day with our tour guide - Rogin Luo - who took us for a hike along The Great Wall! Didn't know what to expect and were thrilled to have him as our guide. Very imformative, knowledgable and fun! We go to experience a part of The Great Wall that was unrestored and see all its natural beauty. Got a long history lesson along the way! After the hike, we all went to lunch at a small place at the bottom of the hill. Located in a house, we ate lunch in the proprietors bedroom! What a hoot! Rogin is the Best of the Best! This tour company delivered for us and we are extremely grateful.

Westborough, Massachusetts
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Home  »  China Travel Guide  »  Beijing Travel Guide  »  Beijing China Travelogues  »  China Challenge 2009
China Challenge 2009
( a hike along the Great Wall of China )
Amanda’s story depicts a young girl’s journey through years of infertility & the harrowing experience of loosing two children, followed by her diagnosis with breast cancer. Two operations, six months of chemotherapy, followed by radiation, have allowed Amanda to get to the place she is today – cancer free!
Amanda has just undertaken the challenge of a lifetime: a hike along the Great Wall of China aimed at raising awareness & funds for breast cancer patients within Southern Africa as well as for research worldwide. Here is the conclusion to her personal story - one of strength, resilience, determination, hope, trust, love, understanding & compassion.

Having conquered a personal and devastating journey with breast cancer, I have just returned home from China having hiked 139,344 footsteps along the majestic (albeit somewhat gruelling) Great Wall.

My husband, Richard, and I were part of a diverse group of 32 South Africans, ranging in age from thirty seven to sixty one years, who travelled to Beijing in order to take part in an 85 kilometer hike along the Great Wall of China.

My personal goal was to raise awareness for girls like me whose lives have been irreparably changed by cancer at a young age (I was thirty five years old when diagnosed).

I felt it important to spread public awareness about this dreaded disease, and, somehow help others who have recently been diagnosed, or who are living with breast cancer.

I feel proud to have accomplished my goal, although I didn’t do it alone. Many affected young women, who have come into my life over the last two years since my initial diagnosis, helped me along the way – after all, I did the hike for them, carrying their remarkable spirits along with me on this journey of awareness.

Of course there were so many others just as important:- people who participated in this Challenge with me, my parents and family who were always there to support and encourage me to continue the fight, also my devoted friends and dedicated doctors.

By completing this very special fundraising event our astonishing team of thirty women and two men, managed to raise over R750,000 for the various charities involved. The public’s generosity was (and still is) endless and we are proud to say that funds are still coming in. This Challenge has shown us that we can make a difference to the lives of people affected by breast cancer and in doing so celebrate the courage of survivors (and their families) affected by cancer.

The Great Wall is an indescribably magnificent structure filled with the history of many Chinese dynasties. While hiking along the Wall, it was incredible to think that it has survived, having spanned almost two thousand years of construction and de-construction by the human race - possibly this is what makes it such an awe-inspiring and spiritual experience.

Our accommodation in various lodges along the way, was, on the whole, clean but basic. It took a while to get used to Chinese ablutions but we weren’t complaining, we were lucky enough to be able to have a hot shower at the end of each tiresome day!
The food the lodges provided was always abundant, with a good selection of meat (mostly pork and chicken) and vegetables - although often we weren’t sure just what it was we were eating!

Here are some excerpts of my experience taken from the diary I kept en-route:

Sunday, 5th April: Our first days hike, nervous but excited, I hope all of our training has adequately prepared us for this great challenge! It still feels so strange to be here; I can’t believe that so many months of preparation and our sponsor’s generosity has enabled us to take part in this life-changing experience.

The start of today’s hike was from a remote village named Jinshanling, at the best preserved part of the Great Wall. The Wall starts from the Wangjinglou Tower in the east and ends at Longyukou in the west. It has 5 main passes and 67 watchtowers. It is amazingly scenic!

The Wall itself lived up to all of our expectations, how impressive it is!

Today’s discovery: one doesn’t walk the Great Wall, one climbs it!

Ended our hike in the quaint village of Gubeikou, which is located along the Yanshan Mountain Range in the northeast of Miyun County (approximately 190km’s from Beijing).

This section of the Great Wall is the bastion protecting the northern gateway to the capital and has 143 watch towers, many of which are famous cultural relics.

Monday, 6th April: Trek Jinshanling to Simatai Enjoyed a hearty breakfast at the lodge before today’s early departure. Today we hiked a full day on the Wall – with weather so mild and warm. Many parts of the Wall had uneven broken steps and loose rubble, we had to keep our eyes on our feet – can’t afford to slip and break an ankle!
At the end of a long and hard days climbing we descended into the Simatai Valley. The Simatai Great Wall stretches about 5 kilometers from the Wangjinglou Tower in the east and connects to the Jinshanling Great Wall in the west. It has 35 beacon towers.
Washing clothes and off to bed!

Tuesday, 7th April: Trek Simatai to Gangfang Today we trekked back to the Simatai area of the Great Wall thereafter continuing our hike to the highest point on the eastern section. Spectacular views!

Hike then moved off the Wall and through Gangfang village where we were able to meet and exchange gifts with the village children. A very rural setting!

Wednesday, 8th April: Trek Wuzoulou Mountain
Enjoyed a days trekking through the Wuzoulou Mountain Nature Reserve, the last part of the Wall area built in the Ming dynasty.
Today’s trek started at 300m above sea level and rapidly rose to 1000m. What a challenging trek, we climbed up-hill for at least 3 hours, through slippery shrubbery and forest. Enjoyed lunch alongside one of the watchtowers, what views! I am trying to take pictures in my mind so as never to forget the beauty of this experience.
Thursday, 9th April: Trek Black Dragon Pool Park
Today we hiked the very scenic Black Dragon Pool Park, parts of which looked like a set from a movie scene - so picturesque it was.
The trek began on local trails as we ascended to the other side of Wuzoulou Mountain. Once again lots of loose rubble and rocks underfoot. Passed a very iced-up river with about 60cm of rock hard ice!
We ascended to the plateau at the top of the gorge and then down into the beautiful Black Dragon Pool National Park.

Friday, 10th April: Trek Mutianyu
Our sixth and final days trek. The Wall at Mutianyu has been renovated and has some of the best views of the whole Challenge winding through great mountains and high ridges. There are 22 watch towers on this part of the Great Wall.
In general, team moods were sombre as today’s trek was our final challenge. Gone was the enthusiastic ‘pounding of pavements’ we had known for the previous five days.

No one wants this amazing journey to end. No one wants to leave the Wall we have grown to love and which has found a lifelong place in our hearts.
As we climbed the 436 step Heavenly Stairway (with its steep incline of approximately seventy percent) in our final ascent, emotions ran high. What a magnificent ending it was!

In some ways it was amazing to reach the end of our Challenge, to be able to stand and look back on the ups and down we had just conquered.
This was an immense physical achievement, especially after one’s body has been bruised and battered by the dreadful effects of chemotherapy.
But there was also far more than this – there was an incredible feeling of pride and fulfillment, almost a completeness to the end of a long and hard journey, both on this challenge and with cancer.

For me, personally, I took the time to say, ‘right Cancer, you have ruled my life and my mind for two years now – it’s now time to set me free and let me live my life’.

As a team we enjoyed champagne and group photo’s at the top and then took a toboggan ride down from the Great Wall to the car park below. What a treat for our tired and aching legs!

Each of us experienced the Great Wall differently. We came home having been introduced to diverse emotions and opinions, which only made our journey more interesting.

Of course our hike wasn’t all hard work; we also had plenty of fun, mostly provided by one particular hiker who entertained us with her antics and endless production of champagne, wine and the like along the way. She was never without her sherpa in tow – who she often alerted by a mere blow on her whistle!

Another comical interlude to each day was provided by a now dear friend, who during our mid-morning ‘tea’ break on the Great Wall, always managed to produce her dainty teacup, kept in its original packaging, for her cappuccino!

We found the Chinese sherpa’s to be a great form of entertainment, but on a more serious note what incredible fitness levels these people have. They hiked most days with us, only to have to hike home at the end of a long day (while we were thinking about who was going to be first in the warm shower!).

We will never forget the remote parts of China we passed through. We have a new respect for the villagers of rural China, who lead a tough life - it really brought home how truly blessed we are to come from a country as beautiful as Southern Africa.

Within our team, we all had the common bond of cancer, which as devastating as it is, helped form the beginning of many valued friendships.

Richard and I feel honoured to have been a part of such a varied group of people, many of whom we have grown to respect and honour purely for their determination to conquer life’s challenges for something they so truly believe in – their charity.

Richard & Amanda
(80 Trafalgar Place, 17th Avenue, Fish Hoek, Cape Town, South Africa. Tel: 021 782 5229)

Further reading
Newsletter China Challenge 2009

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