Long, arduous and prone to avalanches, landslides and frozen earth.
As one of the highest motorable roads in the world, China National Highway 219, which links the Xinjiang Uygur and Tibet autonomous regions, is not for the fainthearted.
The harsh terrain, barren landscapes and high altitude all pose their own challenges, yet for the members of the People’s Armed Police transport unit, these dangers must be overcome.
The unit has been tasked with maintaining the 2,340-km long highway since 2002, and in that time the road has changed from a rough gravel track to a fully paved highway.
On Sept 28, the unit embarked on its latest maintenance campaign, amid extremes of temperature that pose a constant threat to the road conditions.
“The sharp changes in temperature make the roadbed vulnerable, and we have had to refill it with more earth to stop it sinking,” said Feng Rui, 23, one of the unit’s members.
Ditches that run along either side of the road also need maintaining, to prevent them becoming filled with detritus.
All the while, the police have to battle fatigue and altitude sickness due to the low levels of oxygen in the air, 4,000 meters or more above sea level.
“But everybody persists, and I also managed to stick to my post until I finally became acclimatized,” Feng said, recalling his first days in Rutog county in the Tibet autonomous region, where his unit is regularly posted.