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The Actuary The magazine of the Institute & Faculty of Actuaries
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Julian Ellacot takes on the Great Wall

I don’t know which was more intimidating — setting out on a trek along the Great Wall of China with a group of unfamiliar faces, or trying to raise more than £3000 for three charities! With a fair wind and help from friends, colleagues and SIAS, I have achieved both.

Having never done a challenge in aid of charity before, I was asked if I would consider joining the Westminster Challenge for their trek to China this year. This challenge encourages those involved in politics (outside of the actuarial world I am a local councillor) to get involved in charitable work, and fosters relations between the charitable and political spheres. All funds raised are split equally between Crimestoppers, The Childrens’ Society and Cancer Research UK.

In Beijing, after a short night’s sleep, we were whisked off to spend the following week walking several different sections of the wall, accompanied by a local guide. These varied enormously, from the picture postcard scenes of restored wall, complete with stone parapets and towers, to sections where there was either no wall at all, or a large pile of stones, covered by shrubby undergrowth.

Needless to say, some parts of the wall endure much heavier traffic than others. On more than one day we rambled on without seeing any other walkers, apart from local villagers or guides. At one point we attempted to walk along a section running adjacent to a military area — to be sternly told to turn back. At another, a section of the wall had been closed as a result of a pro-Tibet protest event last year, the Chinese authorities clearly taking no chances while the Olympics and Paralympics were going on.

Accommodation during our walk consisted of basic hotels or local farmhouses — luxury was not an option. Food was traditional, wholesome and plentiful, although the abundance of Spam was a concern (except for the one person who actually liked it, naturally!)

We typically covered around 10 miles a day, although this did not take into account the steep gradients and number of steps involved. However, the reward for climbing each section was tremendous, with breathtaking views. What better way to relax when reaching the top than a bit of light reading!

All in all, the trip was a great success, and £3000 was raised for the charities (having paid for the cost of the trip myself). Of this, £500 was kindly donated by SIAS, through its Charity Sponsorship Initiative, and I would like to acknowledge the generosity of this scheme.

Further details of the charities benefiting can be found at www.bmycharity.com/greatwallchina