Ladies and gentlemen, sit back and relax as I am going to tell you a little story. Sitting comfortable? Good! Where do I begin? Ah yes ahem… There are two things I particularly dislike in today’s society; the first is global inequality, which continues to blight our world, the other? Well, it’s camping…
Let me be clear, I do really like to spend time outdoors, it’s just, well… you can have too much of a good thing right? Sure getting out of the city once in a while can yield some great recreational moments, but after a while, once the novelty has warn off, you kind of remember how it often lacks good bathroom, Wifi, sleeping and tea & coffee making facilities. I guess I have just never understood how camping can really exist as recreational activity these days when we have these things called ‘houses’ which have all of the afore mentioned (including wifi).
You’ve probably by now gathered the idea that I’m not a big fan of camping, I don’t see any shame in that. So imagine my trepidation when I was
told invited to attend this semesters ‘CSA Great Wall Camping Trip’. I figured I’d recreate an honest written account of said trip as I have done with all the other CSA trips this semester, so here goes:
My Saturday began like any other Saturday, except this time my alarm blared off a full hour earlier then it would on a Monday morning. As I snoozed I had a brief dream about me standing in a field looking at a tent before laughing out loud and then heading off to stay in a nearby five star hotel. Reality soon returned as a shuffled out of bed and into the shower.
An hour and a half later I was stepping off the bus in Wu Dao Kou ready to help prepare the days proceedings. On one hand, I still mildly hating myself for agreeing to be up at such an unruly hour on a Saturday morning, but on the other hand I could not deny the sense of excitement growing within me. This trip was different to the other major CSA trips this semester in the fact that I hadn’t organised it, in fact I’d pretty much done nothing at all except agree to attend and lend a hand. With that in mind I duly suppressed my negativity somewhat and got cracking with the day.
Fast-forward around 3 hours, myself and group of fourteen others including my awesome boss David and fellow CSA interns Lilian, Patrick and (new addition) Austin were sitting down to a slap up lunch provided by a local hotel in the foothills of the Great Wall. For the record, cold tomatos with added sugar actually taste surprisingly good.
Having digested our fair share of home cooked Chinese food, we (the group) set off on our hike up the mountain to the Great Wall. The path wasn’t what I’d call the ‘well trodden type’ with plenty of undergrowth and loose stones making the already steep ascent even more difficult than I had expected. It was though a fantastic workout and I did truly feel proud of myself after finally reaching the wall after about 40 minutes of ascent.
As my mood brightened, I decided to share my generosity and goodwill with fellow intern Lilian by
tipping water on her head helping her cool down as she sat trying to catch her breath.
A few breathtaking views later (see photos on our Facebook Page), it was time to hike along the wall to our ‘home’ for the night. A short while later we finally reached our destination for night, while a few other members of our expedition went off for some additional hiking, myself and few others stayed behind and collected firewood for our fire later that night.
Before long the sun was setting and darkness rapidly approaching, despite having a great time so far, I was struggling to fight the ‘day tripper’ habit of simply packing up my things and heading back down the mountain to the village. Luckily, my boss David and his thorough planning came to my emotional rescue as some local villagers arrived with freshly cooked food, which I can tell you, was delicious!
What followed that evening can only be described as something between a cross of a deep philosophical debate, a lesson in astronomy and culinary delights (such as smores), a night out with some friends and a sleepover you probably had when you were ten. Whatever you want to call it, it was very enjoyable. My angst about sleeping rough was also diminished as I got in my sleeping bag turned out to be ridiculously comfortable (and warm).
As the twilight of the next day approached, it was once again time for another early start, this time to watch the sunrise. With the absence of a bathroom in which to wash my face with, I settled for eating toasted marshmallows on the embers of our fire from the night before, which let me tell you ladies and gentleman, isn’t such a bad replacement!
Once the sun finally decided to grace us with its presence, and yet more spectacular views, it was time to pack up and head home. Which we did, but not before another fantastic slap up meal from local village. Allow me to slightly amend a famous Winston Churchill quote to describe this meal…
“Never, in such a short time, has so much bǐng (并 – pancake) been eaten, by so few.”
And that ladies and gentlemen, is my story. The way I see it, I had fun and enjoyed myself. That might not seem overly enthusiastic to you, so allow me to put that into a better context. Me enjoying a camping trip is a little bit like a vegetarian who dislikes spicy food tucking into a chicken tikka masala and thinking, “you know that’s pretty tasty”! So, what is the moral of the story? Don’t be so negative and try new things. Should you fancy doing the same thing, why not come and join me out here in Beijing with a look at our comprehensive programs?
Thank you very much.
p.s. A quick thank you must also go out to my boss David who organised said trip, as well the camping group as a whole who made it an unforgettable (in a good way) experience and put up with my constant whining, so thanks guys!
Written By Andrew Cole - CSA Intern Spring 2015
Andrew now likes camping...