Day 0, July 17th 2006. It begins.

Preparations at school, and our group is annoyed that the other group who will also be doing the challenge arrived much later than us, when we’d been told we’d have to show up incredibly early in the morning. Unfair.

Having packed our rucksacks last night, we then have to repack them in ways that would actually be feasible for the month ahead, and lessen the chance of things digging into our backs. Several of us had bought rucksack liners, basically toughened plastic bags, but they don’t seal at the top and would be useless in an actual trekking situation. We have to make a quick dash to the local camping store, with the help of a parent, in order to get some much more hardy liners. I decide to re-purpose my old liner as a clothes container. I was grateful for this decision in due course.

A Health & Safety and Hygiene talk about how we will need to wash while out in the country, and what the state of the local plumbing will be like. The prospect is not good. We must remember to rub our hands with hand sanitiser even after washing them, and drink only bottled water or water that has been boiled or sterilised. Remember that.

We also lay out some ground rules as a team. The two most important ones are that none of us must ever go anywhere on our own, but always go in threes, and that each group must have at least one boy in it. Less likely to find trouble.

After teary goodbyes and some clinging to familial units, we set off for London Heathrow by coach at 3.55, 10 minutes late. Arrived at Heathrow who knows when. Checked in and all got little tabs for Air China to put on day rucksacks, packed with essentials.* ‘Hilarity’ ensued, with forgotten wallets, bagels with that smidge too much cream cheese, and chocolate machines that swallowed money but yielded nothing. All the fun of the airport.

Flight for Beijing took off at 8.55, half an hour late. Tucked into in-flight meal of beef and rice, and was careful to drink lots of water. My shoulders are very painful from having been rubbed by the straps of my 70 litre backpack. Far too many bits still sticking out! At the moment, on the tv screen, two lovely Chinese ladies are singing.

Extra thoughts for the day:

  1. When packing a 70 litre rucksack, put all the squashy things at the bottom. Sleeping bag out of its holder, clothes, the odd niffy kipper- you name it.
  2. To ensure a team runs well and is united, share out the camping gear. You’ll find a person is less inclined to be nasty towards another if said another is in the possession of several long, spring and rather hard tent poles, just waiting to be swung.

* That tag remained on that backpack until it finally ‘died’, nearly eight years later. It was buried with full military honours.

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