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In January 2002 I headed to China as part of a world tour that I was doing by myself. It had been a lifeling dream to see and walk the Great Wall of China. With all the photographs I had seen in my life I had to get there. When I arrived at the foot of the Great Wall it was just the most amazing sight.

The section I climbed was the overly restored Badaling. But I was glad that it was restored because without the hand rails running up the side of the wall for assistance, I would have surely been gasping for air.

Just to let you know the photos are deceiving. The wall is bloody steep, that is why the handrails are there in the first place. Badaling is steep so I can only imagine what Simatai and Jinshaling are like. The photos show you another angle and you think it's reasonably flat. Whatever!!!

So here are a few things you need to have or take to prepare yourself for climbing the Great Wall. (The things they don't tell you about in the travel books).

1. Fitness: You need to be of a very good level of fitness to be able to climb the wall and get to the top.
2. Cable Car: Take it if you are not fit and you want to enjoy the climb.
3. Clothing: Wear the bare minimum and just take a warm jersey for when you reach the top.
4. Bag: Put everything in it and leave your hands free.(even cameras)
5. Take photos at the top and on your way down.
6. Shoes: Your jandals or party shoes will not last 100m up the wall. Wear good running or cross training shoes.
7. Water: Take a bottle as you will be in for a great workout.
8. Motivation: If you start to lose the will to get to the top just look to your left and see the 80 yr old chinese woman next to you attempting to beat you to the top. This ensures you break into a light jog if not a sprint.
9. Enjoy: If you want to enjoy the experience you must come prepared. Do step ups or workout on the stairclimber for 20 minutes a day for a month before you attempt to climb. Trust me on this one or you will reach the top and struggle to climb back down because your quads and hammies have been shocked into another world and be shaking like jelly with every descending step.

10. Top: You'll know you've made it when you see people selling t-shirts and certificates saying Ï climbed the Great Wall".

Hopefully I haven't put anybody off in wanting to attempt the climb but I want you all to enjoy it. But either way if you don't heed my advice it'll definitely be an experience you will never forget.

Happy travelling!!!


If you're single, GO TO ROME!

I went to Italy with one of my best friends, just the two of us with no real schedule, nothing really planned, all we knew was that we wanted to have FUN!

So, we bought the books, talked to people who had been, figured out which historical sites you just had to see if you go to Italy, and still spent the majority of the time just hanging out...all day at the Spanish steps, all night in the Piazzas, meeting people, drinking wine (only red or they'll know you're a tourist...of course, they'll know anyway), and having a blast!

We went to Rome for 5 days, Florence for 3, but if I had to do it again, I'd stay in Rome the whole time...I would because I'm single. Now, if you're married, not into the social scene, etc., go to Florence, it's wonderful, too. Great food, great sites, the best shopping ever, and it's still in Italy, so that in itself is great!

But Rome...ok ladies, here's where to go, coming from a 27-year-old single girl who has dated her share of dumb American jocks. When your plane lands, check in your hotel, get food, walk around (so you don't fall asleep), and at 10 or 11 o'clock at night, go straight to Campo de fiori and sit at one of the outside cafes/bars and just wait. In 5 minutes, they'll start walking right up to you, talking to you, asking about you, and they're fabulous!

The Italian guys are fabulous! Go to The Drunken Ship and Sloppy Sam's. Eat dinner at a restaurant in the Piazza Navona and hang around the Spanish steps and the Trevi Fountain. One night, make sure you catch up with the crowd to do the Colosseum Pub Crawl. They meet at 8ish at the Metro stop and it's a blast...I think. We missed it every night we tried, so don't be late! But it sure sounds fun!!!

Go do all this, stay as long as you can, and you'll see -they'll ruin you for American men!! But you'll have such a blast while you're there!!! And you can always go back...I will.          End

Worldwide Wild
Domican Republic, Costa Rica, Mexico, Belize

The ultra-reclusive felines of Belize (Tony Rath/Courtesy Belize Tourism)
Dominican Republic
Coast-to-Coast Mountain Biking
[2004 Winner]
The Dominican Republic's mountainous interior and long stretches of unimproved roads make for perfect fat-tire odysseys. This 12-day, 284-mile supported ride on dirt lanes and singletrack takes you across four mountain passes, through sugarcane plantations and tobacco fields, and beneath 10,414-foot Pico Duarte, on the edge of Armando Bermœdez National Park. Cross from Cabarete, on the Atlantic coast, to Las Salinas, on the Caribbean Sea. Local guides will lead you down Hispaniola's back roads to lodges where you'll refuel on roasted pig, grilled snapper, and fresh papayas and mangoes. You'll also raft the Yaque del Norte, the longest river in the country. End your two-wheeled whirlwind with a plunge into the ocean at Las Salinas Beach.
High Point: The cool breezes—after a sweaty climb—of the Cordillera Central, the Caribbean's highest mountain range.
Low Point: If your rump isn't used to logging saddle time, six hours a day will take its toll.
Travel Advisory: The Dominican Republic has a rep for credit card fraud, so make sure to double-check your next statement.
Outfitter: Iguana Mama (800-849-4720,



I lived in the Philippines for 6 months, taking language classes and generally spending my savings, and I had some time to kill so I thought I'd take up diving. The Philippines supposedly has some of the world's best dive sites and everything there is relatively cheap. I'm not a great swimmer or daredevil, but I'm generally up for anything once and it turned out to be good fun.

First, the people who I hooked up with were a good social group. They would have a couple meals on the road and generally enjoy themselves. Indeed, at the end, after I had my fill of diving, I found myself going on the trips just to hang out.

For about $200, I got several in-pool sessions at a local dive shop and my eventual certification at Anilao, Batangas, not far from Manila. The in-pool stuff was like studying Driver's Ed. A lot of videos...some basic excercises like taking your mask off and putting it back on underwater. Actually, the excercises were kinda fun and definitely necessary when we got to the choppier water.

At Anilao, I remember being nervous, especially about tasks like removing your breathing aparatus and putting it back on. Equalizing so that the pressure doesn't put pain in your ear was harder than in the pool too (duh), but in the end, it was fighting the waves and getting from place to place which turned out to be the hardest. Still, I managed to see quite an array of fish which impressed me, even if they were quite common to the others.

I eventually got my 'certification' at the "Cathedral", a sunken cross that's popular amongst batangas diver's. It was great to experience that world and I'll cherish my license, even if I don't really plan on diving a kinda makes me naseous and it's a lot of work for 45 minutes underwater...but it's something that everyone should experience.   End

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