• Mao Trek

    In October 1934, the Chinese Red Army found itself facing annihilation, surrounded by hundreds of thousands of Nationalist soldiers. Rather than surrender, 86,000 Red Army soldiers embarked on an epic flight to safety. Only thirty were women. Their trek would eventually cover 4,000 miles over 370 days. Under enemy fire they crossed highland swamps, climbed Tibetan peaks, scrambled over chain bridges, and trudged through the sands of the western deserts. Fewer than 10,000 of them would survive, but remarkably all of the women would live to tell the tale.

    IN THE EIGHTH century,the Chinese poet Li Bai famously proclaimed that it was "more difficult to go to Sichuan than to get into heaven." Our arrival there had been delayed by 14 months, due to the magnitude 7.9 Wenchuan Earthquake,which devastated the region, taking some 90,000 lives, leaving millions homeless, and burying mountain roads. Finally, in early July 2009, I had made it to Chengdu, Sichuan's robust capital. Now two more obstacles had materialized.The 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic of China - the Communist-led nation that arose after the revolution was wonin1949 - was about to be celebrated,and the government had begun to crack down on travel in and around Tibet to avoid any embarrassing political incidents. Meanwhile,a protest by the Turkic-Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang province, a thousand miles to the north, had turned violent; at least 197 people had beenkilled and 1,600 wounded.Security officials went on red alert, checking IDs at road stops and clamping down borders. Luckily, Ed, a Mandarin-speaking Russian studies expert who swapped Russia for China more than a decade ago, is more than just a little savvy.Having walked the entire 4,000-mile LongMarch route with his friend Andy McEwen in 2002-03, and explored many of the horse and spice trails of western China since,he had picked up a trick or two.........

    We reached the summer pasture at 13,000 feet around happy hour. Sure enough, the meadows were full of yaks, dhoykes-the vicious Tibetan mastiff dogs famed in the region-and lovely untended yak tenders. One lass with creamy skin and quarter-moon eyes fearlessly invited us into her cabin. Squatting beneath yak jerky hanging from rafters, we sat around the woodstove as she dished out sweet bowls of yak-milk tea. "There's a sense of freedom in the people" Edsaid. "You don't see many fences here,and you also don't get any sense of indulging in 'poverty tourism. The Tibetan herders might not have much cash money, but they have a spirited and strong culture and lookoutsiders in the eye as absolute equals."

    Dean King published his book :"Unbound" based on the research he did on this trek.