The Great Walk to Beijing

The Great Walk to Beijing 2008


The Great Walk to Beijing 2008



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Great Walk Diary - April 7th - Day 1

Great Walk to Beijing gets underway

A colourful greeting party of locals welcomed Olivia’s team to the base of Great Wall and a chorus of singing, dancing and drumming set the walkers on their way.

The local greeters knew something the party of 45 did not. If the very generous locals could have got passed the language barrier they would have told this eclectic group of cancer survivors, sporting stars and celebrities that what they were about to do was going to be very tough.

In fact within minutes of climbing on to this extraordinary structure the visitors were confronted by some very, very steep stairs that just didn’t seem to end. It took little time for the walkers to find out this was going to be tough, very tough.

Cancer survivor, Rhonda Martinez, "It was unbelievable - I’ve never experienced anything like it in my entire life. It was just the wall itself, the height, the structure, the scenery, everything, mind-blowing".

Parts of this apparently never ending wall have very steep inclines, with uneven stairs, in other parts the stairs have worn away and it’s a real struggle not to fall forward or to slide away on the loose debris.

When you look up you can see the spine of the wall, dotted with fortresses stretching for miles.

Team leader, Olivia Newton-John, found the going heavy at times but the group rallied around each other and the cause. Aussie singer, Chantelle Delaney turned both ankles but kept at it and managed to complete the gruelling 16 kilometres, standing on both feet.

Organisers hope to raise around five million dollars to build a new integrated cancer centre at the Austin Hospital in Melbourne by getting supporters and fans to sponsor the walkers steps’ at the website

Many of Olivia’s group have been running their own fundraising campaigns to support their journeys. Real-life gay cowboy, Adam Sutton spent part of today wondering how he got into this, "the terrain is incredible, my knee is twinging already, this will affect people more and more as the walk goes on".

And go on it will for another 200 kilometres plus and tomorrow there is bound to be many aching limbs. Sutton strained his knee today but he’s in the team so he won’t be letting the others down. "there is a real bond, this is really hard for people but there is a real sense of unity, everyone is helping each other get through this walk.

Hollywood TV star Leeza Gibbons, is another committed member of the team, "50 million people have gone to the wall but when it’s your turn, it’s almost like worshipping and praying and being tired and being exhilarated all at the same time"

If anybody says they were not challenged they are a liar … it was really exhausting and very challenging in certain spots. But whenever you would think oh my gosh this is getting to be a lot, you’d look around behind you and there would be a cancer survivor".

"Everybody else" kept cancer survivor Rhonda Martinez going, "it was the company... if they hadn’t have been there, the same people struggling alongside me, I would have stopped".

"Yes there’s another hill in front, another mountain, but there’s no turning back", said Adam Sutton. (Credit: Great Walk to Beijing).


Profiles (partial)

Annalise Braakensiek

Ian Thorpe

Cancer Awareness