WORKINGTHEROCKY MOUNTAINROAD

China Daily (Canada) - - TIBET -

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.

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