Trail blazers tour Tibet

2007-08-27 10:20:05 | From:

For participants, it's a long trek to the top, photo from China Daily

Huang Zili thought he was going to die when he suffered from unbearable altitude sickness in Damxung County, Tibet. The 10-year-old boy took oxygen under a doctor's supervision, and felt much better afterwards.

Resting in a small tent, the little boy didn't forget to write his dairy, in which he recorded how excited he was about traveling from Beijing to Lhasa by train and how eager he was to hike to Namtso Lake, the highest lake in the world with an area of more than 1,000 square kilometers.

To reach Namtso Lake, hikers must conquer rugged slopes in high altitudes, photo from China Daily

In order to inspire himself more, Huang marked down a sentence on a piece of cloth attached to his knapsack, saying "Nothing is impossible".

Huang is the youngest participant in the second International Tibet Namtso Lake Walking Convention, which departed on August 4.

The hiking itinerary for the six-day event covered 62 kilometers from Damxung Folks Park to Namtso, with altitudes ranging between 4,530 and 5,220 meters.

The annual event was organized by the local government and the China Volkssport Association (CVA). Up to 120 people, including some foreign hiking enthusiasts from such countries as Norway and South Korea, took part in the event, doubling the group number of the first event held last year.

A pre-hike medical check-up, photo from China Daily

Most of the participants, aged between 10 and 62, are members of the Beijing Today Walk Center (BTWC), a NGO established in 2002 which founded CVA two years later.

The genesis of non-competitive walking events is the Nijmegen Vierdaagse, Netherlands, which dates back to 1909.

Odd Lvar Ruud, along with his wife, took the challenge. The former president of the International Federation of Popular Sports (IVV) once climbed up a mountain with altitudes of more than 6,000 meters while serving in the Norwegian military in Kashmir between 1978 and 79.

Three decades later, the 70-year-old was curious about if he could manage to do it again.

"Apparently, it's no problem at all," he says with a big smile, half-jokingly bulging his arm muscles to show off.

"Walking is not an expensive sport. It is a sport for a whole family, and it is also very simple. As long as we are human beings, we are walking," Ruud adds.

The camp site near Dumxung, photo from China Daily


Jin Qiao echoes Ruud's sentiments.

The secretary general of BTWC points out that walking is a newly emerging sport in China. It is easy to participate, however, some people don't have a deep understanding of it.

"The activity is not just about moving forward; it also enables people to learn more about local culture," he comments.

Jin says that people shouldn't explore Tibet in comfortable coaches like most tourists.

"It is better to sense the natural beauty on foot and interacting with local people along the journey," he says.

"It is such a special experience that gives you great satisfaction, and you will never forget it."

As thrilling as the trek can be, altitude sickness is a big obstacle for most participants.

More than half suffered from symptoms such as headache, fever and high blood pressure. A few of them had to give up because of their health conditions, according to Wang Zhongchao, team doctor from the Lhasa People's Hospital.

Lee Sun Chul felt ashamed. Wearing only a T-shirt and shorts when the temperature dropped to 3 C there, the 40-year-old Korean man thought he was strong not enough not be affected by high altitudes.

Yet he, along with his photographer, started to feel sick and exhausted on the first day.

Ironically, other two young Korean girls, whom he used to worry about, were full of vigor and always walked in the front of the team.

"They are real superwomen," he says, sighing with great admiration.

In spite of his sickness, the guest professor of the Dankook University in Korea didn't for a minute regret joining the event.

"There is a trend of walking in South Korea. Some people walk for better health, some for fun. Walking in nature is special for me. I am amazed by the great nature in Tibet, and, moreover, I like the people here as well as our teammates," he explains.

Lee plans to promote this kind of event in Korea by posting various travel photos on the Internet when he gets back to Seoul.

Zhang Wenyuan was not afraid of altitude sickness at all.

The 12-year-old Beijing girl has rich experience of hiking, having participated in almost every weekend activity organized by BTWC over the past four years.

"A foreign teammate told me about 90 percent of altitude reaction is caused by psychological factors. In other words, if you don't fear it, you will be over it," she says.

Besides walking to some places where she might never explore via a package tour, Zhang was impressed by how the teammates helped each other. "Meeting these friendly people makes me feel very warm inside," she says.

Crossing over the Nagenla Mountains with altitudes of 5,190 meters above sea level was the most challenging part of the event.

The freezing weather and muddy paths proved difficult for the hikers, especially for those who fell ill.

Still, many people picked up garbage along the roadsides and collected it in green bags offered by the organizing committee.

"I feel sad seeing so much waste here. Apparently, they were left by tourists rather than locals," says Huang Yumei, lecturer at the Beijing University of Agriculture.

"I believe it is necessary to limit the number of tourists visiting Namtso, and more importantly, to raise everyone's environmental awareness," the 37-year-old Beijinger adds.

Jin Qiao hopes participants undertake at least one public welfare activity whenever they hike.

"Hiking can help people return to nature. Once they sense its beauty, they don't dare to destroy it and will try their best to protect it, which makes the sport more meaningful and enriches its principle of environmental protection."

BTWC now has 4,000 members across the country.

According to Jin, the walking center will cooperate with the Royal Walking Association of Netherlands (KNBLO-NL) to hold a hiking event in Beijing on August 6 next year, as one of the cultural activities of the Beijing Olympic Games, as well as to celebrate the 100th anniversary of KNBLO-NL.

More than 3,000 people from more than 50 different countries will participate.

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