Trekking the Great Wall

29th December 2017

After losing her husband to meningitis Laura Barley from Glasgow took on an epic challenge with three of her closest friends. Here she tells us about her once in a lifetime adventure, and how her husband was honoured during the trip

China trek

My husband contracted meningitis in May 2016 and sadly succumbed to it. My son was only one at the time and has tragically been left to grow up without his daddy. 

I still wonder if I had been more aware of the symptoms of meningitis then I could have recognised them and got him some medical help sooner. Maybe things could have turned out differently.

After my family’s experience I wanted to raise awareness and raise money for Meningitis Now simultaneously; I wanted to try to prevent other families going through this.

I was looking at the Meningitis Now website for fundraising ideas and came across the Great Wall trek. My late husband grew up in the Far East and we had previously discussed the Great Wall, and he had told me about his trip there when he was younger.

It looked like quite a difficult challenge but a relevant one for me. I suggested the idea to one of my best friends, who immediately agreed to sign up with me. Another best friend and my cousin then volunteered to join our team - I am so blessed, everyone wanted to support me and the cause.

We did fitness and fundraising events throughout the year and several larger events.

We held a Time4Tea party, a Charity Comedy Cabaret Night and a Charity Casino Night as our main fundraising events. We started off aiming to raise £10,000, and we’ve now raised over £20,000.

We were told we needed a good level of cardio fitness to undertake the challenge, so we all upped our fitness efforts before the trek. We also combined our training with other fitness events such as a half marathon, 10k, 10k a day, and 5k runs throughout the year. One member of the trek team hired a personal trainer too!

Each day (of the five trekking days) we did a different challenge. We were bussed from our hotel to our starting point each morning, completed the day’s challenge then bussed to our next hotel afterwards. 

We trekked less populated areas, in addition to some more tourist areas of the Wall including the Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, the 1,000 steps and the Stairway to Heaven. 

Day Four was by far the toughest and longest day but also the most enjoyable. We all had a huge sense of achievement after that day. That day and the descent off the Wall were definitely the stand out moments for me. It was incredibly steep and at points there were no sides to the Wall we were walking on, so it was a bit nerve-wracking! The team camaraderie was wonderful though, and we all supported each other fantastically, both our team and the wider team we were with - all 43 of us! There were definite friendships formed for life on that Wall.

On Day Four we hung our Chinese Knots (which is a traditional Chinese decoration which you hang with a note to your loved one), which we all dedicated to my late husband, Euan. It had been a long day of trekking and just after we hung ours we reached the top of the ascent. It literally felt like we were on top of the world, and it was a real emotional moment for us. 

It was the culmination of all of our efforts and having had that emotional experience of hanging the knots, it brought to the fore why we were all there.

To date, Laura and her friends have raised an incredible £22,275.69 for Meningitis Now!

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