Destination Lhasa: Biking Across Tibet

OWU student completes 1,500-mile trip.
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Yue Zhuo ’15: “I just followed my heart.” (Photo courtesy of Yue Zhuo ’15)

Yue Zhuo is an OWU sophomore. He’s in the Chinese Culture Club and the Badminton Club and plans on majoring in psychology. And last summer he biked nearly 1,500 miles across the Tibetan Mountains.

Yue moved to the United States in 2011 as a freshman at Ohio Wesleyan. Prior to this move, he had spent his life in China. He explained to me that a friend had introduced him to liberal arts education and, after doing a bit of research, found OWU to be the University with “the most liberty and the most freedom.” He had hoped to create lifelong bonds with the people he encountered there. He had no idea the spectacular adventure that awaited him.

When I first asked Yue about why he chose to make this venture, he smiled somewhat sheepishly at me and shrugged. “It really started last winter. Everyone from the school had gone home for the holidays and I was all alone. I spent a lot of time on the Internet, looking at so many different things. I came across this man who had biked through Tibet and I was so moved by his story that I thought, ‘I could do that’.”

Yue had never biked competitively before, simply riding the 20 minutes from his house. Yet there was the overwhelming motivation, the burning concept that he could do it that kept him focused. He wondered (briefly!) if he should postpone the trip for next year, or maybe even after that. But then he realized that if he didn’t go now he wouldn’t go. “I just followed my heart.” So, without any training, he was off to Tibet.

He arrived in Chengue with nothing but his bike and a book he’d found describing the escapades of another young man who’d done the exact same trip while recording the necessary destination spots. This book acted as the roadmap that guided Yue (this book can be found online at biketo.com. Be warned; it is written entirely in Chinese.) The final destination was to be Lhasa and, once he’d arrived there, he took buses and trains and taxis to arrive back at his hometown, Nanjing.

The trip lasted a total of 32 days. There were some rest days thrown in, mostly to enjoy the beautiful scenery. Yue assured me that those were some of the most breathtaking sites on earth. Unlike what he’d originally anticipated, the first two days presented the most challenges. “After going about 150 Km (about 93 miles) in the first days, my legs had gone numb. And when I woke up the next day my legs were shaking terribly. I thought, this cannot go on! I have to stop!” But Yue shook off the heavy pangs of trepidation and doubt and continued on. “After the second week, it had become easy! And now that I’ve completed the whole trip, I definitely feel like I could do it again. It becomes more conceivable as you go.”

There were some dangers, though serious injuries were averted by wearing a helmet. Yue swears that lives can be saved due to the head-protection. Everyone in his travel group wore one. The eight of them arrived at Lhasa and his goal had been accomplished.

After showing me some of his photos, he concluded by explaining to me what he hopes will come next. “I read about the adventure of someone else and found such inspiration. I hope that I too can serve as the inspiration for someone else, the inspiration to do something spur-of-the-moment, something that you thought you would never would be able to do.” Yue says he will no longer be able to take a bus or car again without wishing for his bike. Future plans? Next time he might venture to the more northern regions of China.

And Yue looks forward to getting a bike here at OWU to continue to ride onward.

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