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Cycling on isolated plateaus is my passion

By Zhang Yi | China Daily | Updated: 2019-07-10 07:21
Feng Xukai, a 49-year-old teacher from Fujian province. [Photo provided to China Daily]

For the past 10 years I have been crazy about cycling on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Every summer vacation, I spend a month biking across the plateau.

In 2014, I set out on a cycle route with five other people in Ngari prefecture in the far west of the Tibet autonomous region. Our 2,000-kilometer route started in Lhasa in the east, passed through the northern part of the prefecture and ended in the west.

Dubbed the "top of the Roof of the World", the plateau, which has a small population, has no infrastructure and boasts incredible scenery. Travelers can see the snowy mountains heaped up, clean blue lakes, lots of animals-including sheep, yaks, donkeys and Tibetan antelopes-in the meadows by day, and clear, starry skies at night.

The high altitude and low level of oxygen make cycling extremely challenging. With a sharp temperature difference between day and night, and unexpected rain, it is easy for cyclists to lose body heat.

The route consists of dirt, and even rubble, paths, which have been formed over time by passing vehicles.

Animal attacks are a potential risk in the wild. One night, we had to camp near a forest where there were potential animal attacks, especially from wolves.

We found a house in a locked yard, but no one answered our calls from the gate. It was the time of the seasonal migration, so maybe the herdsmen had moved to another place for better water and grass.

We didn't want to intrude, so we camped outside. One of our group was very experienced and alert. He placed some hay bales alongside the wall and said that if an emergency arose, we could use them to jump into the yard and shelter in the house.

Luckily, we didn't encounter any wolves or other animals, though we could hear them calling.

Animal attacks remain a major cause of injuries on that route. Before the trip, we read online that a traveler had been bitten by wolves. The temporary "step" our companion built made us feel safer.

Despite the dangers, I will tackle another route in the same prefecture this year.

Feng Xukai spoke with Zhang Yi.

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