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Paddler plans to kayak to Arctic Ocean

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-13 07:15

Paddler plans to kayak to Arctic Ocean

The Irtysh River in the northen Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region is the only river in China that leads to the Arctic Ocean.[Photo by Hu Huhu/Xinhua]

Intrepid adventurer dreams of completing epic journey through China, Kazakhstan and Russia

The Irtysh River flows from Hou Zhili's hometown and leads to the Arctic Ocean - a journey Huo plans to make alone in a kayak.

From where he lives in Fuyun county, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, the 41-year-old has completed what many see as epic feats - kayaking unpowered for 2,020 kilometers on the China and Kazakhstan sections of the Irtysh in 2014 and 2016.

The paddler is preparing for the final and most challenging stage of the 2,200-km Russia section, plus the last 1,160-km of the Ob River, which the Irtysh flows into before its waters reach the northern sea.

From its source in the Altay Mountains in Fuyun, the 4,248-km Irtysh River flows northwest through Kazakhstan before merging with the Ob River in Russia. It is the only river in China that leads to the Arctic Ocean.

Huo's love for kayaking began when he was a teenager. In the 1980s, several white-water adventurers on China's two largest rivers, the Yangtze and the Yellow River, had become famous and started a craze among bold Chinese who took to rafting on streams across the country.

Some youngsters from Hou's hometown even drifted for hundreds of kilometers along the Irtysh on rafts made of old tires.

In 2012, he decided to close his graphic design company and turned his hobby into a full-time occupation.

After arduous training, on Aug 28, 2014, Hou set out alone in his yellow and orange boat from Koktokay, a town near the source of the Irtysh.

He paddled for 50 km a day, and took 23 days to arrive at Kaba county, where the 520-km China section of the river ends.

The river begins to freeze in November and does not thaw until April, so Huo planned to complete the Kazakhstan section the following year. When the time came, however, he was refused a visa.

His chance finally arrived as tourism cooperation between China and Kazakhstan improved with the Belt and Road Initiative.

Kazakhstan relaxed its visa procedures for Chinese tourists last year.

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