Posted in: Latest News
Written by Ash Dykes:
It feels surreal to be this close to finishing.
There has been so much energy, effort, time, blood, sweat and fear put not only into the one year of undergoing the expedition but also two years beforehand, for the planning, training and logistics.
I feel I really understand China and have been accepted here more than I could have ever imagined. I’ve dug deep into its rich culture, and the documentary that has been filmed along the way really shows this.
I’ve worked with the Green Development Foundation, who help to protect waterways across China, the WWF who needs no introduction (but here's a great article of what they’re doing around the Yangtze), and the Fishery Department who protect fish species living within the Yangtze.
I’ve been able to capture and share their work and I’ve also been able to take note of the volume of plastics and pollution that I’ve seen from source to sea.
I’ve seen a huge increase in knowledge and understanding within the communities, towns and cities along the way.
People are aware of the damage being caused to their water sources and are now actively changing their ways for the better. It’s inspiring to see, especially a country of almost 1.4Billion!
With the President (Xi Jinping) and governments showing such strong support to environmental organisations (like the ones mentioned above) and raising further awareness among the public, there now seems to be a movement that I’ve been fortunate to witness, which gives me a strong sense of hope.
I’ve also spent time with local minority groups and got involved with their traditions and way of life. There have been stories captured within, that even other locals around China have been surprised by.
I've been able to share and connect with fans, followers and curious by-passers as I trek through their cities.
Shared cold stormy nights in the mountains, inside their Ger. Had to dash from aggressive Tibetan mastiffs, hide from bears, set off Chinese firecrackers to keep the wild yak at bay and been joined by many friends, guides and film crew, some who have lasted their course, others who have unfortunately been evacuated or had to leave.
I’ve swum across the freezing river with a group of men who do it daily, trekked with a horse over the Tibetan plateau, been pulled in by the police and had to explain what I’m doing (many times) and even humiliated myself many times whilst trying to communicate in Chinese.
I’ve seen the wild side of China, it’s breathtaking beauty and intimidating terrain, compared with the contrast of urban China, which seems to be forever developing, after all - it is the second biggest economy in the world.
But this bought a different side again, where I was able to get involved with the urban street dancers, to the city bang bang men, worked as a waiter, chef and I’ve presented in schools and even taken the children litter picking along the mighty river banks.
I could and quite literally will be writing a book about all of this, so I better stop there.
I will be completing this journey at the beginning of August. I must enjoy this last section and take my time, it’s very hot though, but I do throw myself back to the Gobi Desert and tell myself that it could be worse?
I sometimes get caught up on the business side, which allows these missions to go ahead in the first place and like anyone - I do get worked up and stressed.
Today as I was ploughing away, I crossed a bridge over a tributary and just stopped in the middle, stood still and looked out at the view. I threw myself temporarily back to Qinghai province, where the journey began and where at times, I was worried for my life, where nothing other than surviving was important.
In that moment of the throwback, I managed to calm myself down almost instantly and had a smile on my face, thinking where I’m currently at on the mission.
Sometimes we can get caught up in the moment and forget where we’ve come from or why we even started - this was a reminder.
It was also a reminder that, although I’m facing mixed emotions right now, happy, angry, excited, anxious and slightly stressed for the finish, I realise that actually, it’s only the finish for this chapter, but the very beginning of the next.