We start the day with a 5 hour bus journey to Dun Huang City. Our bus stops in a lay way to set up our on-the-road toilet, nicknamed, "The Throne"! We step out of the bus, the sun is blazing down heat, and my feet are a metre away from a trail of human feaces! It is explained to us by our local guide that this is normal in China. The side of the road is an open toilet. Men use the left of the highway, and women use the right. Right!
We arrived in Dun Huang and I am happy to see some colour and green. Our eyes have been starved of colour, and it feels as though we have just stepped from an old Hollywood black and white Western film in to a 3-D Bollywood film. There is a fanfare for our arrival - pretty young dancers with full performance make up, all dressed in spangly bright costumes - pink, yellow and blue.
We are served a Chinese feast for lunch. The tables are covered in plates heaving with steaming food. I eat one unidentified dish…I must be getting brave. It is like blocks of clear jelly. I am told after it has pork rind in it. For a Vegetarian of 23 years I should be close to vomiting, but I couldn't taste or smell it, so I decide it was just a noodle.
We have a gentle stroll today, an excursion to the Mogao Grottoes. These are hand dug caves in the side of a mountain with sand dunes in the distant that look so perfect my mind tells me they must be a painted backdrop at the London Opera. We visit three of the larger caves - all with Buddha paintings and statues. I am sad to say there were no photos allowed, as it is one of the most breath taking sites I have ever seen. When we step inside, it is dark and freezing cold (Ancient Air Con!). We stand at the feet of one Buddha, 113 feet high. The surrounding walls and ceilings are decorated with thousands of intricate individual drawings of Buddha that pattern around like tiles. This has been a place of contemplation for centuries. Buddhist Monks used to live here and famous artists made these Deities to inspire and span 10 Dynasties, last through wars and even a few earthquakes. I feel small, humbled and while processing why I am here, the word 'acceptance' repeats in my head.
On returning to the hotel I am moved by what I have seen and tears of sorrow stream down my face, for the ones I have lost to Cancer. Three friends - one was my best friend. We were sitting around chatting one day when she noticed she had a pain like a Kidney infection. The following day she was taken to hospital. I sat by her side for three months watching the devastation of Cancer take over. We went through the horrific diagnosis that she was not going to survive. 36 years old, my friend was never to leave that hospital. In the most serene organised way, she planned her funeral and gave family and friends specific details to take care of. All I could do was rub her feet and look into her eyes and try to be brave. Six months after her passing I find myself with all her loved ones on a beach to scatter her ashes into the sea, as requested. There is nothing that can take your breath away more than holding ashes of your dear young lost friend in your hand, and un-curling finger by finger until they float away in the tide. I was numb all over.
This was just over a year ago - and I am now here, in Central China, crying and trying to 'accept' this personal devastation. Most of the walkers on this trip have no idea what I had been through, and suspect I am walking since my experience of my sister's breast cancer. I wish that was the only reason. With one friend surviving Leukaemia, 4 surviving cancer, three friends lost to cancer and two currently being treated for cancer, the numbers are staggering.
Please please please help me raise money to find a cure for this illness that is plaguing our lives. I don't want to live with it, and I don't want to fight it - just find a cure and move forward to a time when it will no longer be a part of our world.
With love that stretches farther than the Great Wall is long
Thanks for taking this journey with me
Love and Kisses
WEIGH IN: 46.5