13 October 2011

The Clouds Part For Team Chopper

Once again, the day started under less than ideal weather conditions. It was wet, cold, and darn near miserable! The entire group was a little bit weary about the trekking and climbing ahead. Once again, however, just as the bus pulled away from the hotel the rain stopped and the clouds cleared, leaving the bluest and clearer sky I have ever seen in China. It was so clear, in fact, that we could see the Beijing skyline some 100km away! The Great Wall - enveloped by the reds, yellows, and oranges of autumn - looked absolutely spectacular.

Today's section was a fan favorite. Called Mutianyu, it crawls along the spine of the ridge some 1000 meters about sea level. We were surrounded by craggy white, limestone-topped mountains on all sides and it seemed that our panoramic views changed with every step. The first portion of our walk was not steps (miraculously) but instead plunging slopes that wound down and up and down and up and down and up. This proved to be the most difficult type of terrain for Nicole with her fused ankle so Chris and I developed a "cruise control" system (photo above) that allowed us to monitor here downhill speed.

At the end of this portion was our biggest challenge of the day - 1000 uninterrupted steps that wind straight up the side of a mountain, raising us to 1200 meters above sea level. They are steep, slippery, and relentless but boy were they were it! The sense of completion, accomplishment, and satisfaction boosts the endorphins and all that lactic acid build up, all that pain in the calves seems to just melt away. Knowing you have done it for a cause as important as Westpac Rescue Helicopter Service makes it all the more meaningful.

Because of the rain the final descent was more washed out than usual so some of us backtracked to our starting point to avoid the particularly dangerous downhill while others carried on past the "no tourists beyond this point" sign. Their path wound even further up, reaching the apex of The Ox's horn before plunging back into the valley on a less than ideal goat track. We rejoined each other at the guesthouse, where the celebrations began.

From 4pm until bedtime we barbecued in the shadows of the Great Wall. we toasted to new friendships, new experiences, and new bottles of beer. We chewed on chicken feet, we choked down more baijiu, and we laughed. Mostly at Rodney. As day turned to night and the cold moved us inside, we found ourselves in a circle talking about what brought us on this adventure.

Everyone had been directly or indirectly affected and just as the organization itself is one of, by, and for the community so too was this group. There were tears, there was trust, and there was resolve to carry on advocating for the Rescue Helicopter once we got back to Australia. By the end of the night we had developed a political action plan to bring the emergency call unit back to Newcastle. Watch out New South Wales government. If this group can climb, fundraise, and drink as well as they do I have no doubt they will be a force to reckon with!!!

This element of camaraderie and team spirit is probably my favorite aspect of our Inspired Adventures. You can take 14 near strangers, chuck them in a foreign land together, and within days they will think like a team, act like a family, and joke like lifelong friends. It is truly life-changing.

For us it is now back to Beijing for more sites, sounds, and tastes of China. Go Team Chopper!!!

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