We’ve had a lot of great questions in the comments section of our blog, and though we try to keep up, it’s not always possible to answer each one in a timely fashion.
So, we decided the other day to have a monthly Q&A, where we’ll post answers to the questions asked in the previous month. This month’s is more of a June + the first week of July Q&As, but from now on, we’ll try to post shortly after the first of every month.
Meanwhile, keep up with the questions!
Where is Bailey staying while you’re walking the wall?
For those of you who don’t know, Bailey is our pet spoodle. She is staying at a great doggy farm in the Illawarra about two hours south of Sydney, where she has other dogs to play with, a farm pond to swim in, no cages, and lots of loving care and attention.
Every month or so she gets to spend a week with Emma’s mum and dad, Mike and Di Nicholas. Just last week she had her second birthday party, where she got a new imaginary friend to replace Jake, the stuffed toy dog who met an unfortunate end at the paws of a larger (real) dog.
Bailey and her new imaginary friend, Jake II. Photo by Di Nicholas
How many steps will you take on your journey?
A lot. We started out carrying a pedometer, but quickly ditched it when it turned out to have some annoying quirks.
However, during the time we had it, it seems we (Emma actually; she carried it) averaged about 2000 steps per kilometer. If you multiply that by 3000 kilometres you come up with a figure of 6 million.
Do Chinese people walk the wall?
Yes. In 1984-85, Dong Yaohui, who is currently Secretary-General of the China Great Wall Society, walked the wall from Shanhaiguan to Jiayuguan (opposite the direction we’re taking). You can read more about Mr Dong in our earlier post, “A Great Celebration.”
It is entirely possible that other Chinese people have walked the length of the Ming Great Wall, but our inability to read Chinese at anything but a rudimentary level means we can’t really research the question.
It also should be noted that you don’t necessarily need to take off six months and walk 3000 kilometres to “walk the wall.” In April, we were among 1300 people (nearly all of them Chinese) who took part in the 5th International Great Wall Walking Convention, an event organized by China Volkssport Association (CVA). Each of the participants walked either a 10-kilometre or 15-kilometre route along the famous section of wall at Simatai. Every year the CVA organises a walk on a different section of the Great Wall. If you’re interested in the CVA, there is an English-language page on their website at http://www.mrqh.com/english/abuot.htm.
And the CVA walkers are off . . .
. . . and they’re making their way to the top
Of course, every year thousands of Chinese tourists walk the most famous sections of wall at Badaling, Jinshanling and Simatai, as do thousands of foreign tourists.
Do they have monkeys in China?
Yes, but fortunately for Brendan, not along our route. (For those of you who don’t know us personally, Brendan broke his little toe badly a few years ago while attempting to photograph some monkeys in Thailand. This question refers indirectly to that little mishap.)
Have you seen any rabbits?
This question also has a backstory that may require explanation, especially for non-Australian readers.
Recently, Telstra, an Australian telecommunications company, ran a TV ad in which a family is driving along and one of the kids in the back asks the question, “Why did the Chinese build the Great Wall?” The father answers, “To keep the rabbits out!”
(Umm, this probably doesn’t make sense if you don’t live in Australia, but it is funny.)
Anyway, to answer the question, yes we have seen some rabbits – enormous jackrabbits, among the largest we’ve seen.
Are you guys carrying all those books you source?
Thankfully, no. Our library is an electronic one, consisting of books we’ve scanned into our laptop:
• Dong Yaohui, The Eternal Great Wall (Beijing: China Nationality Art Photograph Publishing House, 2005)
• Patricia Buckley Ebrey, The Cambridge Illustrated History of China (Cambridge University Press, 1996)
• Julia Lovell, The Great Wall: China against the World, 1000 BC – AD 2000 (London: Atlantic Books, 2006)
• Arthur Waldron, The Great Wall of China: From History to Myth (Cambridge University Press, 1990)
We also have a fantastic piece of software, PlecoDict, that includes several English-Chinese dictionaries and will translate any Chinese character we write on the screen of our PDA.
Finally, we use Encyclopedia Britannica online and do Internet research, though we try to limit ourselves to reputable sites.
All in all, it’s a decent library, especially considering it’s weightless.
How far do you walk each day? Are some days longer than others? Do you have a planned destination each night?
So far we’ve walked 25 kilometres a day on average, with our shortest full day being 20 kilometres and the longest at 34 kilometres.
We do have a planned destination each night, which is approximately 28-30 kilometres from wherever we happen to be.
We also have an approximate schedule for the entire trip, which we drew up using nothing more sophisticated than some crude maps (the only maps we had at the time) and a ruler. Now that we’re able to gauge distance accurately using GPS, it’s becoming apparent that our trip will be a fair bit longer than anticipated. We’re currently revising our schedule in light of this “finding.”
What is the temperature in the desert?
When we were researching the trip we found out that the average daily high for June in most towns of the Gansu corridor is around 28 or 29 degrees Celsius, which sounded all right to us.
What we didn’t realise is there are two kinds of days in Gansu. On sunny days, it’s about 35 (we did have one day of 41 degrees, but that was exceptional). On cloudy days, it’s about 22. That makes for an average of 28 or 29, but the thermometer pretty much never registers that temperature except on the way up or down.
So it’s either blistering hot or overcast and gloomy. Oh well.
How much water do you carry?
More than we wish we had to. On cool days we’ll go through 2 to 3 litres per person while we hike plus 2 litres per person for dinner and breakfast. On our two-day trip through the Gobi Desert we drank 18 litres apiece in less than 48 hours.
We rarely begin the day carrying less than 3 litres apiece; how much we’re carrying at any given time varies according to the weather and the distance to the next village. The most we’ve carried at one time is 7 litres per person.
These amounts will decrease as the weather cools and we travel through more populated country in the east.
Do you have telecommunications and electricity along the route?
Telecommunications in China are remarkable – every town of a couple thousand people has at least one mobile phone tower. This means we can get mobile phone reception almost anywhere. Everybody is on their mobile phone, all the time. The whole country seems to be bypassing land lines.
Brendan phoning home from who knows where
We also usually have an Internet connection through our CDMA phone, although away from the bigger centres it is often so slow we can’t access email or upload material to the website. Still, considering we’re generally in the middle of nowhere, it’s pretty amazing.
Every village we’ve been to, and almost every house, has electricity. This has been a surprise to us, especially as Gansu is one of China’s poorer provinces.
How do you find time to walk and keep up the blog?
We’re struggling a bit, to be honest. Between walking, finding a place to stay every night, talking to people, writing, and taking photographs, it can be hard to find time to just be tourists.
The time may come when we’re forced to make some compromises in our plans – either not write about some things that we think are interesting or cancel some of the side trips we hope to take – but we haven’t reached that point yet.