If I had to pick a theme for the day, it would be stairs. Stairs up, stairs down, just endless stairs. We awoke prepped for a recovery day of 2-3 hours trekking through the core of Jishanling great wall - a section known for it's steep inclines, plunging descents, and incomparable beauty. A big breakfast of tomato, spam, toast, and eggs left us all wanting though the genuine real-deal espresso machine meant there were 10 very happy, very energized Australians fully caffeinated and ready to climb.
It's difficult to describe what slogging up and down the great wall is like. I take that back. It's actually quite easy. Imagine you are on a stair master climbing up and up and up yet feeling as if you are not really getting anywhere. Now make those steps going both up and done at random intervals. Now make them 60 centimeters tall. Now do that for 5 hours. BOOM, you are ready to take on the great wall!
Thankfully, we had two major advantages today. The first was a group (read: army) of Finnish tourists all kitted out with poles, gloves, bladders, hats, wicking shirts, and so forth wandering aimlessly along one tenth the expanse we were covering. They were truly living the saying "all the gear, no idear." They made us feel even more awesome. After all, we had none of the gear and no idear. At least we're honest.
The second was a genuine army of Hubei farmer's wives who fawned, fanned, and in some cases carried us up, over, around, down and through the day's trekking. They. Were. Legendary. Su-li found our Julie and that became a whole thing: " You are Julie? I am Su-li! No way! Giggle giggle giggle." When we came up short, a few of us would share a local. No pair of us got closer that dear Vicki and her lady friend Julong.
Julong spotted Vicki early on, honed in, and spent the next three hours sweet talking dear Vicki with a helping hand, regular fanning, and colorful chatter. By the end she was calling Vicki her zui pengyou, or very best friend. Before long they felt like part of the group; old friends you share a laugh with over a leisurely stroll along China's famed Great Wall.
Our trekking ended before lunch. We quickly showered and packed, ate lunch with the same local family we had dined with the night before, and hopped on the bus to zoom onward. This afternoon we had a few hours of free time, which found the now well-trained group wandering around the hotel aimlessly asking me "Kyle, what do I dooooooo??? I don't know how to plan my own time now. Entertain me Kyle! Entertain me!"
We finished the night with yet another incredible dinner, wonderful conversation, and a game of spoons. Word to the wise: don't play spoons with a group of high-functioning type-A charity challenge participants. It can lead to minor flesh wounds, hurt feelings, and someone laying bum-up on the floor after having been thrown from the circle while searching for a spoon. And that's before the game even starts!
Todays special shout-out goes to Stef, who pushed through despite a very swollen good knee and used a bag of frozen dumplings as an ice pack in the absence of the real deal. Doing it all for Black Dog! Onward to our longest and most intense trek tomorrow. GO TEAM!