Sophie’s knee has popped back into place much to my relief. She’s hobbling on the crumbling unstable ground, sharp icy wind whip her tears dry. She won’t be looking forward to the solid clay bed awaiting us at the end of the day. Not to mention no running water or electricity. One of my group members seems to have strayed. Great. Now is not the time nor the… Is that someone naked on top of a dilapidated watch tower?
Scrambling on hands and knees, clutching at straggly bushes to haul myself up the next broken step, my balance waivers as I try to reach this nudist. Military heavily patrol this section of the Wild Wall. What is she thinking?
We snake along the unrestored structures of the Great Wall. Overgrown and crumbling ramparts from century to century, ravaged by nature, man and time, I pause briefly to catch my breath. The true beauty of the unrestored defensive structure lies before me, I gaze over the broken, uneven steps, my eyes follow the infinite serpent like wall and I appreciate (for more than one reason) that there are no tourists for miles. The raw wilderness takes my breath away. It is extremely rare to have access to these ramshackle pathways of the Great Wall, so far beyond where the fleets of tourist busses unload their snap happy comrades. I am truly privileged.
Approaching her bare bum, I break the peaceful silence. “Sarah, what the hell are you doing? Get down from there! And more importantly where the hell are your clothes? It’s 4C!”
She grins, “Take a photo of me?” Reluctantly I point my camera. The group are doubled over in hysterics. Have I missed something?
Sarah strikes multiple poses as if this is the most normal thing in the world, I awkwardly snap away not sure where to look as she continues her imitation of Madonna’s vogue.
My eyes dart around nervously. Searching, scanning, watching. This section of the wall is renowned for its strong military presence. I desperately want her to put her clothes back on, but intrigue has taken over.
“Perfect!” she says whilst bundling her clothes. “I’ve been naked on every continent,” she exclaims proudly. What? This is a regular occurrence? My curiosity heightens.
“Antarctica, Everest and now The Great Wall are the coolest of my collection.” The group have managed to regain their composure. We continue trekking.
“My sister did this in the middle of Gay Pride in Amsterdam – That’s badass.” I question her in amazement, “Your sister does this too?”
“It was pure coincidence. She returned from a trip and I came back from a different trip – we’d both taken nude photos! Once we’d realised this, it had to become a competition. Sibling rivalry took care of the rest.” I laugh. Typical twins.
Temporarily detouring off the wall, the path ahead had completely collapsed. Hiking through grassy valleys, desolate villages with squealing rosy cheeked children; their clay homes surrounded by corn fields. Clambering back onto the wall, the serenity and silence is broken once again with laughter. Sarah is laying face first in the dirt. Her body as straight as an arrow. She is planking. Of course she is.
We chat about her cheeky escapades as the ground smashes underfoot. “I do it because it makes me, and others laugh.” She sure got that right! “I like being happy and this contributes to that. Being naked is something people largely think of as either sexual or embarrassing. They forget that it’s actually just hilarious!”
I think about Sarah’s words as the days light begins to dim. Weaving our way off the wall, meandering towards a small village, a local banquet is awaiting us. My train of thought is broken when I hear Sophie shriek, “Is that snow?” Rushing towards a patch of white, no larger than a king bed, you can almost hear the tssss as she plunges her burning, swollen knee into the snow.
Sarah streams past, a trail of clothes in her wake. Laying down she begins making snow angels. The group are again in stitches of laughter.
An aroma of roasting cashew nuts and sweet corn floats towards us on the night breeze. We trudge toward our farm stay, reflecting on the day that was. A warm welcome of toothless grins and crinkled eyes greets us as we’re ushered inside out of the bitter cold, goats and sheep sharing our quarters. Bowls of steaming delicacies are placed before us. Nothing could have prepared us for the grandeur, humour and beauty of today. We hunker down into our feast. I glance to my left. Yes, Sarah has clothes on.
Looking for more Active travel experiences? Check out our range of active small group tours!
This category of tours involves light trekking, walking, cycling, rafting or kayaking for a few hours each day with a small amount of inclines and declines. You will require a reasonable level of fitness and good health to participate. It is important to note that due to the nature of some of our trips, they may take place in remote areas (with basic facilities) and can involve long travelling days on various modes of transport.
Suggested preparation : At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake aerobic exercise (this may include jogging, cycling or fast walking) for 30 minutes, three times a week. It is also advised to walk on variable terrain and in variable weather conditions. For a cycling adventure, road cycling twice a week is recommended and for adventures which involve paddling and kayaking, it is important to gain confidence and rhythm rather than speed prior to departure.
This category of tours involve trekking, kayaking and cycling for period of 6 to 8 hours a day at a fairly consistent pace. Ideal for people looking to slightly increase the heart rate. For our moderately rated tours, you must have a good level of fitness and also be in good health. It is also important to be prepared for variable weather conditions. Altitude may also come into play. This category of tours may involve visiting remote areas where facilities can be quite basic. Accommodation may also involve camping, homestays or basic accommodation where facilities may not be considered of western standards. To enjoy this style of travel, it is suggested for travellers to have a reasonable level of fitness and health, a positive attitude, as well as a fairly active lifestyle. An open mind is also required.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 months prior to departure, it is recommended that you undertake 45mins – 1 hour of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week. Some potential exercises that could be beneficial include hill walking with a backpack on over variable terrain and weather conditions, as well as running and cycling dependent on the activity you plan on undertaking.
This category of tours involves trekking, kayaking, cycling or other adventure activities in remote areas for up to 8 to 10 hours a day. It is important to note that with the remoteness of some regions comes a variety of other challenges such as variable weather conditions, accommodation as well as facilities. You must have an excellent level of fitness and good health to be able to partake in this category of tour. You must have confidence in your own ability and be in good physical condition. Includes extended periods of endurance.
Suggested preparation: At least 3 to 4 months of strenuous exercise, four times a week. When preparing for treks it would be beneficial to participate in hill walks with a weighted day pack (approximately 5-8 kg) once a week for aerobic fitness and strengthening of leg muscles. It is also important to do this on variable terrain to prepare for challenging adventures. When preparing for cycling adventures, regular bike riding (at least 4 to 5 times a week for 1-4 hours is essential). It is also important to cycle on uneven surfaces or even participate in other aerobic exercises such as running or swimming to build up strength and stamina. Altitude may also be a factor in these tours.
This category of tour often involves extreme trekking, cycling or other extreme adventure activities. It is important to expect remote and poorly defined tracks and to be prepared for variable weather conditions for 10 to 12 hours per day (may sometimes be more depending on weather and altitude). These adventures are suitable for travellers who have prior experience in strenuous travel and activities, are extremely fit and have excellent health. It is also important to note that some of the terrain on these adventures will involve trekking in snow, at high attitude levels and may require technical equipment.
Suggested preparation: It is important to note that physical fitness should be an ongoing activity, commencing around 5-6 months prior to departure, or even before if you have no prior fitness. Exercise should focus on building maximum endurance and stamina. Four to five hard sessions of 40-60 mins per week should be completed and can include exercises such as going to the gym, running, swimming or cycling to focus on building aerobic stamina. It could also be beneficial to prepare by hiking on rough terrain, in extreme weather conditions or partake in altitude training.