Keynsham's Sarah Leybourne has 'time of her life' trekking Great Wall of China

Published on: 04 Oct 2014

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Besides raising £45,000 to transform cancer care locally, a Keynsham fundraiser says the gruelling trek she and her team have just completed proved a “life-changing experience” for everyone who took part, too.

Sarah Leybourne has just returned from China where she and 13 others tackled the steep ascents and descents of the Great Wall for up to seven hours a day.

Over six days, the group trekked valleys, mountains, through farming villages, on renovated parts of the wall and across ruins, also taking on the near-vertical ascent of Heaven’s Ladder.

Their efforts were all in aid of the Forever Friends Appeal, which is raising money to replace outdated facilities at Bath Royal United Hospital with a new cancer care centre.

Sarah, a senior radiopharmacy technician at the RUH, said: “The China Trek was a life-changing experience, I met the most inspirational people, made the most amazing memories and truly did have the time of my life.

“Each and everyone of us encountered our own personal struggles – together as a team we climbed countless steps, steep climbs, narrow ledges with huge drops and dodged many spiders! Our legs burned, we were all sweaty messes and at times we didn’t think we could go on but we all pulled together as a team and we were left with such a sense of achievement at the end of each day.”

Besides the physical demands, there were other, more everyday challenges for the group to face – getting to grips with chopsticks and squat toilets!

Sarah said accommodation varied in standard, although all were warm and welcoming, and the trekkers got to try traditional Chinese food each night, a world away from the takeaways they eat at home. Lunch on the go, however, was sweet bread sandwiches with fillings of fried eggs, spam, lettuce and jam – “The local women selling Snickers at various parts of the wall became our life saver,” said Sarah.

The group, which also included a number of walkers supporting other charities, were all led on the trek by their guide Bob.

“If Bob said we had 20 minutes left trekking, we would reach our destination two hours later,” said Sarah. “This came to be known as Bob’s Time! Don't get me wrong, we loved Bob, particularly the way he led us on probably the hardest challenge most of us had ever done with his rucksack casually flung on one shoulder and not a bead of sweat in sight while we were all sweaty messes.”

The trekkers spent their last day relaxing in Beijing, dining out at a top Peking duck restaurant and reflecting on their trip.

Sarah added: “Thirty-two strangers met at Heathrow Airport and 10 days later we said goodbye to 32 new-found friends as we had shared everything, from trying to use Chinese squat toilets, to supporting each other on the tough parts of the trek and sharing incredible stories regarding the charities we are all raising money for.”

Laura Pearce, events fundraiser for the Forever Friends Appeal, said: “We are so proud and grateful to all of our China trekkers and those who have supported them throughout their fundraising. They have all worked incredibly hard, not only in taking on this physical, and often emotional, challenge but to help raise significant funds for the build of the new cancer centre – £45,000 is no easy feat!”

The Forever Friends Appeal is now looking for another group of adventurous fundraisers to take part in a trek in India in October 2015. Call Laura on 01225 821535 or visit www.forever for more information.

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