The Mental Health Foundation run an annual trip to China, to trek the Great Wall of China and if you are looking for your next big adventure, you need to get signed up.
Not only will you help to raise thousands for an amazing and timely cause, but you’ll also get to see one of the wonders of the world! What’s not to love?
If you’ve been thinking about doing something big for charity, or maybe you’ve always wanted to see the Great Wall of China for yourself, here are a few things you need to know before you jet off.
What do you need to pack?
One of the things you may panic about, is what you need to pack. When you aren’t 100% clear on what the weather will be like or what you’ll be doing day to day, it can be tough to pack the right things.
Here are the essentials I would say to make sure you pack:
- Workout leggings or pants x7
- Workout tops – long and short sleeved x7
- Walking socks
- Walking boots
- Casual clothes – enough for 2 full days of travelling and 4 nights of socialising
- Insect repellent
- Sun hat
- Waterproof coat with a removable fleece lining
- Waterproof pants
- Water bladder
- Backpack big enough to carry your water bladder + snacks and enough room to put your coat in should you get too warm
- Small first aid kit – with paracetamol, plasters, Imodium, constipation tablets
- PJs + standard toiletries
- Extra jumpers and hoodies – it can get a little chilly at night
The main thing to remember is the weather can be a little unpredictable and the nights can be extremely cold, especially in the mountains, so be sure to pack items that can be easily layered.
Where will you be staying?
The amount of people that asked me if I was going to be camping on the Great Wall was immense. The answer is no, you will not be camping on the Great Wall of China!
You will have a bed to sleep in every single night, usually in a basic hostel style B&B. For the last 3 nights you will have a slightly more luxurious hotel to stay in around Beijing.
The main thing to be aware of is that the bathrooms are very basic, but all of them have hot water and the majority have western style toilets, there was only one accommodation that had a room with a squat toilet.
You will be in mountainside hostels for most of the trip, they are known as farmers houses, but many of these families have turned their homes into B&B’s. The main thing to remember is to not drink the water out of the taps!
The scenery is always stunning, in fact there wasn’t one morning where I stepped outside and didn’t see amazing mountain views!
What will your days look like?
Now for the action, what will your days look like day to day?
For the first day, you’ll head out onto newer sections of the wall for a short practice walk. This will take just a couple of hours and give you a good idea of what the rest of the trek will be like.
The next few days you’ll be up bright and early for breakfast, where you’ll also have time to make and pack some lunch for the day. You’ll then fill up your water bladder, get your gear together and head off to trek various parts of the Great Wall.
At the end of every day, you’ll either arrive back at the previous nights hostel or a brand new accommodation where your bags will be waiting for you.
It’s only the last few days were you’ll wind up your trek where you’ll have time to explore Beijing. This will consist of the Forbidden City and the amazing Beijing market place. Make sure to save room in your hold bag for all the gifts you’ll want to bring home.
What kind of food is there?
Obviously you’ll be eating A LOT of Chinese food and a lot of the time, this will be the types of dishes you are probably more used to as a westerner. Things like sweet and sour chicken/pork, boiled rice, noodles and all of that deliciousness.
For your packed lunches, you’ll be able to make yourself some sandwiches, either tuna or peanut butter. We also took a couple of things from the dinner the night before to take with us on the trek!
I would also recommend bringing some protein bars with you to keep you going on the trek. It’s always nice to have a quick snack when you take a break from all the walking.
Who will you be trekking with?
You’ll join a group of other charity trekkers, all raising money for the Mental Health Foundation. It will be a real mix of people, different ages, different stories and all from different parts of the UK.
What’s nice is that everyone is in the same boat. Everyone is pushing themselves out of their comfort zone and have their own personal reasons for raising money for mental health.
By the end of the trek, you’ll basically be a family. It’s such a close knit experience it would be hard for you all NOT to have some sort of connection by the end of it all.
How should you train for the trek?
When it comes to training, I would say just to work on your cardio, particularly step training. In fact, just do step training, do millions of squats and really work on strengthening your legs, core and back.
When I say there are a lot of steps, what I really mean is that the wall is basically steps that go up and down the Chinese countryside. Any flat bits are either up-hill or down-hill, so it is a challenge.
Even when you go off the beaten track to walk along the oldest part of the wall, you are trekking vertically up the side of Chinese wilderness. I’m a strength training kind of girl, and one of the things I wish I had done more of was intense cardio training.
What are the extra costs you need to be aware of?
Something I didn’t really think about was the extra costs I would need to pay out for, so here is a quick list of things I would recommend you budget for:
- Tip for the guide and luggage handlers – This is around £30 in total or 300CNY
- Spending money – The recommended amount is £100 but I would say aim for around £200-£250 just to be safe.
- Vaccinations – You’ll be a very low risk for everything, but I recommend getting your hepatitis vaccinations and TDAP (usually a top up as you have this in school). There are others you can get to be extra safe such as Japanese encephalitis, rabies and typhoid, but they are not compulsory and can be very expensive.
- China Visa – This is around £150-£180 depending on if you go to straight to the Visa office or if you do it by post.
How to raise the amount of money needed?
To be able to head off on the trek, you have to raise a minimum amount of funds and it can be a little daunting. In total, you need to raise £3,150 for the charity and this covers a hefty donation to the charity and the cost of the trip (includes flights, accommodation and food).
There are different things that work for different people, but here are a few of the fundraising things I did to help me raise the money:
- Charity Art Fairs – This was the thing that helped me raise the most money. I held charity art fairs for local artists to sell their work. I charged the artists per table and then offered the chance to text to donate on the day.
- Pub Quiz – This one didn’t work quite as well for me, but I know a couple of other people saw a lot of success with these!
- Offering freelance services – I worked freelance alongside my normal 9-5 to help raise a bit of extra cash.
- Painting for money – I took my watercolour hobby and turned it into a little business, painting commissions for people.
- Selling unwanted items on eBay and at carboot sales
- Selling unwanted DVDs and books on Music Magpie
- Asking family and friends for donations
- Bake sales – this one was also a winner, people love cake!
Sign up for the Mental Health Foundation’s Great Wall of Charity Trek
The registration fee for the trek is £299 and once that’s paid, you’ll receive your fundraising pack and information about your trek.
It is by far the best thing I’ve ever done and I am very proud of myself for raising so much money for a cause that means a lot to me. It’s also made me want to do even more charity work going forward!