In April we publicised Entagroup’s sponsorship of Janet Poole as she embarked on a gruelling 10 day challenge across the route of the Great Wall in China. Trekking with 50 other walkers in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support, Janet faced some personal challenges including leaving behind her husband and four children and also a fear of heights. We caught up with her once she’d returned, eager to hear her experiences and congratulate her on her achievement.
You made it! Congratulations! So how did it go and how were you feeling by the end of it all? Tired?
It went really well. I am very pleased with how well it went but yes I was feeling very tired by the end.
Did it live up to your expectations? Was it harder or easier than you expected?
It was nothing like I expected. There were parts I was not looking forward to at all. Being used to home comforts, I was not looking forward to the lack of toilet facilities or the camping but it was actually not that bad and I would even go as far as to say I enjoyed camping. The terrain was also very different to what I had expected. At this time of year it is very lush and green, not dissimilar to England and we were very lucky with the weather. The first day was the coldest but by the end of the week the temperatures were reaching 30 degrees although it rained on the last day of trekking.
The walking was a lot tougher than I expected, but training paid off which enabled me to stay in the front group of walkers which was a great confidence boost. The areas where the Wall has been reconstructed was good but hard going as these sections contained lots of steps and on day 2 of walking I climbed ‘Heavens Ladder’ a part of the wall that has over 300 steps in one go! In comparison to other parts of the Wall in more rural areas though, that was the easier bit. Away from the main part of the Wall that attracts tourists, we were walking on rubble with sheer drops either side. Luckily we had a fantastic guide with over 17 years experience who looked after us. He also provided a real understanding of the Chinese culture along the way.
How much did you raise for Macmillan Cancer Support?
I personally have raised a total of £3250. The walk as a whole has raised £177,000 at last count.
What were the highlights and low points of the experience?
There were two highlights for me. The first was visiting a rural primary school located in the mountains. We received a fantastic welcome from the children and were treated like celebrities. The children in this area are very poor so we all took small gifts with us. They were only things like pens and colouring books but the children were so grateful. They had been practicing dances for us too and it gave us a real insight into their culture and way of life.
The second highlight was of course achieving what I’d set out to do. It was such a relief to successfully complete the challenge and realise my goal. I’d left my family thousands of miles away in England, experienced an entirely different culture and trekked across a mountain range for over 80Kms on one of the Seven New Wonders of the World in 10 days. At the end we took a 500m zip wire from the Wall to the valley below, across a large lake, where we would be staying which was quite scary but nonetheless exhilarating.
My low point came midway through the trip. We had a really tough day of walking and I started to feel the physical and mental strain taking effect. The prospect of being half way through and still having 5 more days of walking to complete was tough. We had a great team spirit though and all helped each other to keep going. I also had to face one of my greatest fears during the trek. I am scared of heights and at points this was really tested. In some areas the Wall is in a very poor state – the surface is extremely uneven and narrow with sheer mountain drops either side. But when we faced such challenges we pulled together. Some of the stronger walkers would hold back to help and support the less experienced.
Would you do it again and do you have anything else planned for the future?
Definitely and I would recommend it to anyone. Given half a chance I would certainly do something like this again but I don’t have any plans just yet.
And the most important question, did your 4 children and husband survive without you for 11 days?
Just about. I think my husband faced his own new challenges while I was away. I’ve been spoiled rotten since my return though so I think I was missed quite a lot.
What have you taken away from this experience apart from your achievement?
I think the main thing is an endearment to the Chinese people and their culture. Our guide explained a lot about their way of life and we saw it first hand in the school. We got to see the ‘real’ China where even in the poorest areas the people are content in their lifestyle and unbelievably welcoming. I never felt uncomfortable and it provided a sense of home from home.
Would you go back to china?
Definitely, I would love to take the children to China. The culture is so different it would provide them with an invaluable experience.
You can find out more about Janet’s trip and still donate towards the challenge at www.justgiving.com/janetpoole-china2009
. To learn more about Entanet’s other charitable activities visit www.enta.net