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British adventurer completes yearlong Yangtze walk

By BO LEUNG in London | China Daily Global | Updated: 2019-08-14 09:47
British explorer Ash Dykes followed the Yangtze River during his yearlong journey. Photo provided to China Daily

A British explorer is claiming to be the first person to walk the length of the Yangtze River in China after enduring freezing temperatures, blistering heat, and altitudes of more than 5,000 meters during his epic trek.

Ash Dykes, from Old Colwyn in North Wales, finished the 6,437-kilometer journey on Monday after he was delayed by a couple of days because of Typhoon Lekima.

The 28-year-old said he felt great after crossing the finish line in Shanghai, where he was greeted by family, media, and Chinese supporters.

"As soon as I was on the final stretch, people started to join and we sort of ran to the finish and popped the champagne," Dykes said.

The expedition took two years to plan and 352 days to complete.

At the start of the trek, the source of the Yangtze River was difficult to reach and four members of his team left the expedition before it began because of altitude sickness. There were also fears over the possibility of bear and wolf attacks.

"One day, I was told by locals that a woman was killed by a pack of wolves and for the next two days we were followed by a pack of wolves, so that was very intimidating," Dykes said. "We thought bears would leave us alone but the locals told us otherwise ... so we would try and shelter with the locals or, if I was in my tent, I wouldn't get food out. We had to stay alert and focus."

He said he wanted to use his journey to highlight conservation projects by partnering with the World Wide Fund for Nature, Green Development Foundation, and Water to Go.

The explorer said raising awareness of conservation work during the expedition "makes it far more worthwhile" because "protection of the environment is a huge passion of mine".

The idea of trekking the Yangtze River formulated after Dykes visited China in 2010 and felt such a journey would take him "to the heart of the country".

Dykes said that the journey was not only about challenging himself but about meeting people along the way and he said "the sheer scale and diversity that constantly changed across China" made it fun.

"It was about the locals, the different cultures, customs, and traditions. It has just been amazing," he said. "I was able to take time out and really soak up the experience because it wasn't about a speed record, it's a first and so there was no time limit."

The expedition along the world's third-longest river is Dyke's third noteworthy achievement. In 2014, he claimed to have become the first person to walk the length of Mongolia, solo and unsupported, something he managed in 78 days. And, in 2016, he was described as the first person to have traversed the length of inland Madagascar, a journey of 2,574 kilometers that took 155 days.

Dykes is already thinking about his next adventure and says he would like to do something in China.

"I'd like to do something shorter but just as ambitious and make it more interactive and educational," he said.

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