North Wales answer to Bear Grylls, adventurer and extreme athlete Ash Dykes, has reached his second major milestone during Mission Yangtze. Ash is attempting to create history as he attempts his third world-first record – walking the entire 4,000 mile length of the Yangtze river in China.
Complete with a film crew who are documenting his trek, Ash has now reached the first major bend in the river, its southernmost point, where it takes a sharp 90 degree turn and flows to the northeast in the province of Yunnan, the third province Ash has entered, having previously trekked through Qinghai and Sichuan. Over the next 500 miles Ash will see where rural China meets urban China and how they integrate with one another.
Ash, a fervent champion of the environment, said he was particularly pleased to report that so far, the Yangtse remains unaffected by the plastic pollution which affects so many rivers these days.
“Protection of the environment is very close to my heart and I always push out the message that you must enjoy this planet we live on, but also protect it. I’ve been keeping my eye out for plastic pollution and I can honestly say I’m surprised with how well cared for the Yangtze River and the tributaries that flow into it actually are. I’ve not seen much plastic in the waterways up to now.
Plastic relatively new to the region
Ash believes that the reason for the lack of plastic pollution is that it is relatively new to the region, and calls for education to ensure inhabitants are aware of the damage plastic can cause. Many will assume plastic is biodegradable, but Ash believes once the locals understand the harm it can do, people will naturally look to protect the region.
““It’s against the Tibetan culture to disrespect nature in general and they naturally know how to care for the environment. Everything the nomads ever consumed or thrown away, for centuries, has always been harmless to the environment. These are people that if they discard of their hot water, they throw it in the air first, for the water to cool down before hitting the ground – in case they harm insects living in the grass!
“ China are making huge progress and pound for pound they are fighting climate change faster than any other country. I’ve seen so many new tree plantations, wind farms and solar panel sites during my journey.”
Journey continues despite high attrition rate
Ash’s journey continues unabated, although in the first 11 weeks of the adventure, seven of Ash’s team members left due to altitude sickness. Ash said,
“It’s been a wild adventure and more extreme than I could have ever imagined.
“Seven team members have already been taken off the expedition due to altitude sickness, injury or physically not being able to overcome the challenges that have presented themselves. The main thing is, they’re back home, safe and sound, with their families.”
From -20 degrees to a tropical climate
At the mission’s start, high on the plateau, Ash faced mountainous terrain including snow blizzards and -20 degree Celsius temperatures, bears migrating down from the mountains for their winter hibernation, wolves, and the vulnerability of long periods of isolation. He explains:
“China has really proved to be more diverse and beautiful than I could have hoped for, but I’ve had to constantly stay alert and focussed. I’ve certainly been tested in many aspects but I’ve been able to overcome each challenge I’ve faced.”
Ash has also been keen to get involved in the locals’ way of life, helped by his fast-developing language skills. Recently, he has worked paddy fields, cared for fruit and vegetable plantations, and helped local farmers with livestock such as pigs, chickens and cattle. It has been interesting seeing how the younger generations are utilising new technologies and influencing the ancient, traditional ways of their elders.
Having followed the river south Ash now finds himself in a warmer, tropical environment at a lower altitude, where he will now find more people, vegetation, plantations, paddy fields and more of the typical southeast Asian wildlife that can only survive in the warmer climate.
Ash is keeping everyone posted on social media and continues to grow a huge following with fantastic engagement, sharing everything he comes across in real time. People can even track Ash on his website and see where he is, within 5 metres of his actual location.
Mandarin Films (Ash’s China-based production team who are creating a documentary of this expedition), are soon to release one minute teaser clips every week. This documentary coverage is heavily anticipated in the Chinese market and is expected to be popular in international markets too. We’ll be keeping an eye on his progress.