Hi everyone, my name is Meghan. I was one of the intrepid explorers on ellenor’s last international trek. Growing up in Gravesham I always knew how much ellenor meant to those around us, but it wasn’t until 2009 that my family and I were able to experience the truly wonderful support that ellenor provides, when we able to access bereavement counselling and other therapies from the well-being team.
I leapt at the chance to travel to China with ellenor, being able to give back whilst I travelled was an amazing opportunity. I was eager to fundraise and train for an incredible cause. But I wasn’t alone; my mum was ready for the challenge and raring to go too! As a dynamic duo we spent an unforgettable year fundraising as a team, but still the target of £3,400 felt like we’d bitten off more than we could chew at first.
It wasn’t as difficult as we thought it would be and we got lots of helpful advice and suggestions from the amazing fundraising team and soon started coming up with our own ideas.
We spent nights on eBay listing unwanted things we found in the house or that had been donated for us by friends and family. There was an incredibly successful pancake day sale at work, where we were lucky enough to receive donations as well as the cakes we sold. A raffle with prizes donated by some fantastic. We also stood out at train stations and in Gravesend town centre to collect money in bucket. But the cherry on the cake was setting up at the Northfleet Lions boot fair in Lord Street Car Park in the cold and wet. So many people came to our stall to talk about their experiences with ellenor. It was a great monthly reminder of what we were raising money for and how much our donations would help our community.
It was a bit of a gamble, only meeting our team mates twice before taking on our challenge, but by the time our plane took off from Heathrow, we were already firm friends. Bonding over the shared love for the hospice and the motivation to do our best by our community, was a recipe for success that we needed in the demanding days ahead.
As a nervous flier, the twelve-hour flight was my first hurdle, but we were soon in Beijing and raring to go. The first day we drove to the wall and started on our way. I’d come across the Crouching Tiger, Coiling Dragon mountain when researching for our trip and I was looking forward to seeing it in person. The ‘crouching tiger’ mountain (so named for the shape of its peaks) was our first climb and was incredibly steep, but we could see our next mountain, the ‘curling dragon’ looming in the distance with its ribbon-like wall snaking to the top and out of sight. What had we let ourselves in for?
In anticipation for the trip, my mum and I watched BBC’s Wild China and laughed to ourselves that we would never actually see any of the wonderful animals. Surely, we would be too close to the beaten track to see such things even if we were miles from the closest town. On day one we saw a wild preying mantis. In the distance we could see fields of cultivated Acer plants that were sent as presents to foreign countries. The autumn breezes had already turned the local flora a vivid red interspersed with a rich orange.
The trip wasn’t all through rose-tinted glasses. The wall follows the mountains and winds around following the rock foundation, but this includes the extreme drops and rises that are found in the natural world. We often had no choice but to approach the drops, seated and shuffling carefully across the bricks. If you made a day without a sudden slip and a sore bottom you were living a charmed life. The training walks we’d taken back in England suddenly seemed tame, but certainly worth it!
On our fourth day of the trek, the weather took a turn for the worse – as a sudden reminder of home and English weather. But with our finest waterproofs and a top up of waterproof boot spray, we were able to continue our walk with a smile on our faces… or thereabouts.
Our fifth and final climb was by far the highest and as we looked out at the awe-inspiring landscape that rolled out around us in all directions, we knew that we had done our best for those we loved in our community. At the bottom of the hill was a small celebration with our guides and a presentation of medals from our amazing ellenor contact, Kate.
When we returned to Beijing, we were able to visit some of the remarkable sites including Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City with our fantastic guide. Then we had some free time to explore by ourselves. We visited the Pearl Market and the Temple of Heaven Park. We were also able to discover the delights of the Lama Temple, also known as Yonghe Temple, where millions of people come to worship and visit every year. It’s the most renowned temple outside of Tibet and a highlight of our trip.
To celebrate our achievement, not only of our walk but our outstanding team fundraising total of over £50,000 to fund care for other families like mine, we spent our last evening out on the town. With the help of our guide we crossed town on public transport and were able to watch an astounding acrobat show and tried Peking Duck at an authentic Chinese dinner.
The trek itself came and went much faster than I ever expected. Five days walking along one of the greatest wonders of the world, was an experience I will never forget and the only thing I would change is to add an extra day on the wall. The views were spectacular, the hills were steep, and the blisters were enormous. We saw so much in such a short space of time, we never wanted to leave!
I’d like to encourage you to sign up and take on a challenge like this for ellenor, to help make sure that patients and their families receive the same loving care and support that our family had. Whatever challenge you choose, stepping up for ellenor will change lives, including yours.
If you would like to challenge yourself, trek Machu Picchu, and raise money for your local hospice. Find out more and sign up today: https://bit.ly/2YVeC8P