We can't believe how quickly our trek has come to an end. It doesn't seem like we've been here for more than a week already. We've done so much in that short period of time from walking up to the highest Watch Tower on the Great Wall, to walking thousands of steps up and down many of the mountains in this beautiful country. Taking in to account our busy final day in Beijing, we've walked well over 70K and don't our legs know it.
Our flight was at 12.35pm local time, so we had an early rise as we had to be on our bus to the airport by 8am. One by one we all assembled outside our hotel and John our driver carefully loaded our bags. Here we said goodbye to our local guide Ki. He's been an amazing support to the team, making everything run like clockwork, each and everyday. His knowledge and expertise has made this trip so special for each and everyone of us.
Off we went all waving to Ki on the pavement, in to the chaos that is Beijing's road network. We fought our way through rush hour traffic, cars cutting in and out of lanes, vehicles coming at us from all angles. John safley navigated this chaos and dropped us off at the airport for approximately 9.30am. Unloaded and ready to check in, we thanked John for his efforts and moved in to the terminal to check in. We return to the UK using Lufthansa flying to Munich, before moving on to Manchester.
We had a couple of final dilemmas. One was to get Gerry's bag on the flight, but she was to go onwards to Stansted from Munich to see family in Norfolk, so her bag couldn't be transported to Manchester without her. The easiest solution was to distribute her bag content between myself, John N, David, Sue & Krishna. I would then repack it on our arrival in Manchester and return it to Gerry on Monday morning. The other was to get our doctor's medical supply bag loaded. At Manchester they let it be loaded at no additional cost as our group combined weight was under our allowance. This wasn't possible here much to our frustration and an additional baggage charges of £200 was incurred.
Once we were all checked in we said goodbye to Simon our guide. What a guide he has been making our journey an experience of a lifetime. He's kept us together as a team and taken us along parts of the walk you could only ever imagine about as a western tourist. A huge thank you to Simon for everything he has done for Team Rosemere. He continues his travels with a short extension to Japan where he will visit friends in Tokyo and will climb mount Fuji.
Once we'd navigated passport control and security we moved on to our departure gate. Much to the excitement of the team, we were to fly on the Airbus A380, a double-decker plane. Even economy class was luxurious with amazing service. We departed on time and I started on the first of 4 recently released films on the in-house entertainment system to help pass time during this 9hr flight.
Upon landing in Munich we said goodbye to Gerry as she had a connecting flight to Stansted leaving in just an hour's time. We weren't so lucky and had a 5hr wait. Much of this time was spent in Duty Free buying gifts for family and friends, calling loved ones who we hadn't spoken to for many days or catching up on social media we hadn't been able to access since setting off on our epic adventure.
For me it was the opportunity to speak to my wife Sarah and daughters Ebony & Evie who were holidaying for half term in Menorca. I'd kept in touch with them daily via email, but you can't beat speaking to them. They excitedly told me all about their holiday and endless free ice-cream (heaven for a 6 year old). I said my goodbyes to them and made arrangements to collect them from Manchester airport on Saturday.
By now, everyone was very tired. Our connecting flight was 9.30pm local time, but in China it was now nearly 4am on Friday. Our short flight on to Manchester was packed and a lot less luxurious than the A380. All we wanted to do was get home. The journey passed relatively quickly as many of the team slept. Something they would regret over the weekend ahead as jetlag kicked in. Somehow I managed to power on with my plan of not sleeping until I got home and trying to get straight back in to routine.
We landed in Manchester at approx 10.45pm BMT and moved reasonably quickly through passport control to reclaim our bags. Everyone had made their own various onward travel arrangements with some sharing taxis and others having family pick them up. We said our final goodbye to our team Doctor, Isla. Her advice on the first day of no double dipping in the food, constant sanitisation of our hands and ongoing support and encouragement throughout the trip had endured a low key role on the medical front for her, which was music to everyone's ears.
Everyone shot off in their different directions, leaving me waiting for my mum to collect me. Somehow she'd managed to take a wrong turn twice and had ended up on the M56 Warrington bound, rather than terminal 1 bound. Waiting in the cold wind and rain after a 24hr journey wasn't much fun, but taking the mick out of her on her arrival at 12am made up for it. It was only then I found out she'd only driven twice to Manchester airport over the last 15 years and both times had been in day light. I just appreciated the lift.
I finally arrived back at home 1am BMT on Friday morning after a long detour due to closures on part of the M60 near the Trafford Centre. It was now 8am in China. After putting a load in the washing machine, I jumped in bed to rest my sleepy eyes.
After 6hrs kip I arose to crack on with my 4 loads of washing. To stop the inevitable tiredness kicking in, I kept myself busy, cleaning the house from top to bottom so I didn't fall in to the temptations of a day time snooze. It was over and back to reality and another trip to Manchester airport tomorrow to collect my family.
I'd like to thank each and every one of 'Team Rosemere' who’ve risen to this amazing challenge and have raised an unbelievable amount of money towards the Rosemere Ribblesdale Ward Appeal. Once all our sponsor monies have been collected I will post on update to the blog. There is still time to donate too towards our monumental efforts…
Thank you to Caroline, Chrissie, David, Dot, Eileen, Gerry, Gillian, Joanna, John F, John N, Leonie, Maria, the Srinivas’s, Sue & Tina for making this trip so special. There are memories for life and I can’t wait to catch up with you all in the near future.
As I sit reminiscing about this amazing adventure, the words ringing in my ears from each and every one of our trekkers was 'Dan, what's our next adventure???'!!! Watch this space I said......