Day 3 of our challenge and we were off for our second of five big days trekking on the wall. That's right, 16 kilometers, 6 hours, plus a whole lot of steps, perilous drops, bladder malfunctions, and demands for ice cold things (beverages, cream, hearts, etc.). The sun was shining, the sky was blue, and the temperature was getting up there which meant twice the challenge! Still, this group took it in stride.
The magic of autumn was out in full force today. The brilliance of the wall was set against the vibrant yellows, oranges, and reds of the changing leaves underneath a backdrop of radiant blue skies and puffy white clouds. With every step the scenery seemed to change drastically with new angles, viewpoints, and perspectives to be viewed, photographed, and appreciated.
All this beauty helped to keep our minds off the grueling track that lay ahead of us. The other thing that kept us occupied were group songs performed by what we are now calling the International Rescue Chopper Chamber Choir. Led by lead singer Shell Bell and backed up by the spotlight loving Lorraine along with the Chang Chang Chorus Line (Chang Chang is Chinese for Great Wall) our finest work was seemingly prompted by the strangest of circumstances. Brendon mentioned he felt a bit of vertigo while climbing down some enormous steps. Cue U2's "vertigo." Hello hello...Shell Bell pointed out her shoes were made for walking and the group, in unison, chimed in: "that's just what they'll do. One of these days these boots are gonna walk all over the Wall!"
Two hours along an unrestored section of the wall our journey led us down into a fantastic valley of small farms, big trees, and a pathway dotted with numerous wells. We kept Water Closet as far away from them as possible. Upon reaching the bottom it was back upward to the wall, the fall colors surrounding us on all sides. After a pit stop for some cold sodas and pineapple ice lollies (yes, even out in the middle of nowhere you can get fruit-flavored Popsicles) we rejoined the wall at a more restored section called Jinshaling. Two hours further it was back down off the wall and onward to a much deserved dinner. After all, we had been trekking for over six hours!
Earlier in the day Michael our local guide (nicknamed Louie after his Chinese name, which translates as "fly") had arranged for a 45 kilogram Billy goat named Larry to be barbecued in traditional Aussie style for our dining pleasure. Our stomaches had been growling since 3pm so goat we did eat. True to Australian form the women sat around the table gas bagging while the men ended up crowded around the barbecue talking about how they would have cooked up that goat, pretending like they knew what the heck they were talking about.
We finished the day the way we always finish it: by passing the "daily superstar" bracelets on. Each evening 3 people are given bracelets by their fellow teammates for being awesome during the day. The next day, those selected then pass them on to whomever they think deserves them. It's a great way to be reminded of why we are all here and highlight the excellent teamwork of those individuals who particularly shined.
If today can be defined by anything, it's teamwork. Paul, Peter and Rodney were phenomenal all day in assisting Nicole on her journey climbing the Great Wall. Despite her fused ankle and titanium rod that lines her right leg, she took every step with purpose and determination with the three lads there to assist when she needed that extra helping hand.
Meanwhile, the Michelles, Sandy, Lorraine, and Darryl seem to have formed what they are calling the "Fab Five" of tough ladies who help each other up, over, and through the more precarious bits of our journey. More specifically this support usually comes in the form of pushing each other's bums up, over, and through the more precarious bits of the wall. Their initiation process also seems to involve the placement of hands on bums for a preset amount of time, which is perhaps why the others haven't yet joined this very exclusive rag-tag bunch of renegades. Perhaps we'll have the courage tomorrow.
As for the rest of us, we are not pledging any allegiances just yet. The are still several days to go and we have no doubt the rival gangs will only improve their membership offers. Until then, we will all just continue to pretend we are living West Side story. For now, it's off to bed in our hilarious and quite quirky hotel (where Chris and Michelle have decided to act as living statues).