China: Tour for a Cure

“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it.” Molière

Several years ago, I participated on a charity challenge – trekking on the Great Wall of China – which was organised by the Cancer Council Victoria and Intrepid Travel. It’s been on my mind lately, not only because some good friends of mine are travelling in China, but also because my niece is currently battling with breast cancer.

Many of the participants on the charity challenge were taking part because of family or friends who’d battled cancer or lost their fight with it. My motivation was a little different as, at the time, I didn’t really know anyone with cancer. But I did want to do something worthwhile; to use my love of travelling, writing and photography to give something back to those in need. The article I wrote, and that I’m sharing here this week, was first published in Brisbane’s Sunday Mail.

It was challenging trekking on the Great Wall of China but, for me, the hardest part of the program was coming up with ideas to raise the funds. I can quite safely say that the six months prior to this trip was the hardest I’ve ever worked in my life. But then again, it pales into insignificance compared to the journey undertaken by so many cancer sufferers on a day-to-day basis. My thoughts and prayers are with all of them, but especially my niece.

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Fleeting fame in rural China

I came to see thousands of life-sized armoured soldiers standing in battle formation, guarding the entrance to a forgotten tomb. Every statue is unique featuring a distinctive expression or stance. The famous Terracotta Army. It’s arguably the greatest archaeological discovery of the 20th century, yet people were staring at me. This is where it all began. The fame. The adoration. Demand for my time.

Children at Zhongnan Mountain

In rural China blonde hair, blue eyes and fair complexion are the ingredients for attention and quite often it was the locals asking for permission to take a photograph of me or my travel companions, rather than the other way round. Children would stand beside us, giggling nervously during the photograph, before skittering back to their parents. It was an adventure in an unknown culture – for all of us.


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