A group of pupils from St Cyres School recently spent an amazing four weeks in China, taking part in a World Challenge Expedition. The students were amazed by the diversity and breath-taking scenery as they travelled from Chengdu to Beijing. The students spent the first part of their adventure in and around Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan Province.
After sightseeing in the city, taking in the bustling markets, the group travelled to the town of Emei Shan to complete the first part of their challenge, a three day acclimatisation trek up to the 3,099m summit of one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains in China. The group walked through sub-tropical rainforests, seeing countless species of colourful butterflies, birds and monkeys. The accommodation on the trek involved staying in monasteries where the group were woken early each morning at dawn to the sound of Buddhist prayer songs.
The next location was the town of Kanding, located in the valley of the Tibetan Plateau. At approximately 2,500m, this was the gateway town to the group’s main seven day Minya Gongga trek up to an altitude of 4,800m. This was a fantastic trek with incredible snow-capped mountains, raging mountain rivers and open grasslands. The group were accompanied by several Tibetan horsemen with horses to carry their heavy packs. The going was tough with the altitude taking its toll on the group making them feel tired and breathless as they climbed higher each day. The evenings were magical, each night the Horsemen would set up a cooking tent and the whole group would sit around a fire drinking Chinese tea, eating together and singing songs.
The group then took some well-deserved rest and relaxation by returning to Chengdu to visit the Panda Sanctuary. This was one of the highlights for the group and they were even lucky enough to see some very young baby pandas in the breeding area. The next phase of the expedition was a day in a primary school teaching English to young children and then onto a project at an Eco Farm. The project was very enjoyable and during the week the students got to learn some Chinese cooking skills, making traditional dishes in the kitchen. They also took part in some farming and they built a clay kiln.
Two long overnight train journeys followed, first to Xi’an to visit the beautiful and iconic Terracotta Warriors, the 8th wonder of the ancient world. The group also spent time in the backstreets of the Muslim market quarter full of unusual sights, sounds and smells. The group become experts at bartering for all sorts of souvenirs and sampling some unusual foods like ‘whole deep fried crab’.
The expedition came to an end in Beijing. The group stayed in one of the authentic Beijing ‘houtongs’, an area of extensive alleyways formed by lines of courtyard properties, small shops, tea houses and small eateries. Before flying home the group visited a section of the ancient Great Wall. A fantastic time was had by all and some incredible memories were made that will last a lifetime.