Seeing the Great Wall of China stretched out into the horizon more than compensated for the concrete beds, basic hostels and squat toilets, said fundraiser Patrick Bodger.
And during his trip to China, Patrick, aged 45, calculated with the aid of an app that he had taken 127,418 steps on the wall during his eight to 10-hour days on the trek.
But the surprising thing for Patrick was the state of the wall away from the tourist areas.
He said: “At the beginning and end of our time on it, it looked like the real Great Wall of China. We asked how old one bit was and were told it was rebuilt in 1985, whereas the ruinous bits were hundreds of years old.
“I imagined it was going to be like the perfectly formed wall we all imagine, but for hundreds of miles it’s not.
“So you can go there expecting to see the Great Wall of China but in many parts it’s the great rubble of China.”
Patrick, who lives by Gaydon Road, Bishop’s Itchington, said no amount of training can prepare people for the reality of walking on the wall, which is in steps for many parts.
“One set of steps would be one-inch high and the next set would be one-foot high. We would go up a ridiculously steep incline and then down a very deep drop.
“Lots of times you would see the wall in the distance going up and down like a roller coaster.”
Patrick, an Asda delivery driver, who was a forensic psychologist for 20 years until he wanted a “complete change” of job, was raising funds for the Alzheimer’s Society and is well on his way to reaching his target of £2,700. He said: “Alzheimer’s has impacted on five members of my maternal family and so is extremely important to me.”
Patrick, who gets married in September, found the landscape breathtaking, saying: “The scenery around the wall is always quite stunning.
“The first place that we stayed at was in the mountains and when we got up and saw the Great Wall of China ahead of us you forgot about the basic accommodation, the concrete beds and the squat toilets.”
He was also taken aback by the friendliness and curiosity of the Chinese in areas where they don’t often see tourists, although Patrick and his friends did not experience the locals touching their faces to see if freckles come off.
“The people were wonderful and very friendly. Between the first and the last days the areas we were in thinly populated areas and for many of them, seeing a white person was quite a novelty. They would quite often want their photos taken with us.”
Along with his party, they began walking on April 17 and returned on April 25. People can donate at https://www.justgiving.com/Patrick-Bodger2/