With the highest altitude in the world, the 1455-kilometer-long Xin-Zang (Kashgar-Shiquanhe) Highway is the most dangerous highway leading to Tibet Autonomous Region, especially the Jieshandaban section and Sirengou section. The highway crosses five mountains above 5000 meters, among which the highest one named Jieshandaban reaches as high as 5248 meters. A journey, in a complex and changing climate, from 900-meter-high Xinjiang across 5200-meter-high mountain and then to 4500-meter-high A’li despite a short period of three days, will undoubtedly go beyond the stamina of many people.
Xin-Zang Highway, an important transportation artery in the west part of Tibet Autonomous Region, is the most arduous one leading to Tibet Autonomous Region, with the section above 5000 meters as long as 130 kilometers. Though not as picturesque as Sichuan-Tibet Highway, this highway is of magnificent beauty. Along the line, this highway needs to cross more than ten Xueshandaban above 5000 meters, traverse Kunlun Mountains and Gangdise Mountain, direct down south along the Himalayas and go through a vast expanse of western wasteland. Most sections of the highway are in line with gobi and desert which extend to the horizon and mountains which are capped with perennial snow; thus, it is a frequent occurrence that places are uninhabited within several hundred kilometers. However, it is just for this reason that groups of wild animals such as Tibet Autonomous Region wild ass and Mongolian gazelle can be seen, which creates quite a splendid scene. In addition, Karakoram Mountains with changeable weather, heritage of Guge Kingdom that is in fashion for a period, Renboqi Peak of Shenshangang, the Sacred Lake Manasarovar, and Sakya Temple---the birthplace of Shamanism, can also be appreciated.
Although Xin-Zang Highway is the main channel for the materials and personnel of the A’li region of Tibet Autonomous Region nowadays, the best choice for tourists to seek adventure and have a good view of the scenery along the line is to start from Lhasa. The reason is that during a short period of three days from Yecheng to A’li, the altitude soars from 1300 meters to 6000 meters, with the height difference of approximately 4700 meters, which will bring about dramatic changes to human body, and a continuous journey to Lhasa always with an altitude of about 4500 meters will take another ten days or so and pose an extremely great test to human body and stamina. However, starting from Lhasa, the physical body has already adapted to the complex and changeable climate of the plateau.
Xin-Zang Highway represents one of the worst highways leading to Tibet Autonomous Region. The reasons lie in three aspects: Firstly, the conditions are extremely bad. Though as a section of No. 219 state highway, it may not be as desirable as country roads in some developed towns of inland. Along the whole journey, the asphalt roads are few in number, and ragged dirt roads can extend for several kilometers. Secondly, with sections above 4000 meters and 5000 meters have added up to 915 kilometers and 130 kilometers respectively, Xin-Zang Highway, as it were, is the highway with the highest altitude; Furthermore, the altitude is only about 900 meters starting at Kashgar, but 5400 meters at Jieshandaban, the dividing line between Tibet Autonomous Region and Xinjiang, with the height difference of approximately 5000 meters. More importantly, along Xin-Zang Highway are mainly open regions uninhabited where supplies are a thorny matter, which challenges the limit of human body’s endurance and poses the greatest test to people’s stamina. It is just for this reason that the original state is preserved in such an uninhabited place, and the splendor along the line and the towering Himalayas have attracted many people who are interested in exploration. The West Region is committed itself to melanism project and the conditions of Xin-Zang Highway will be better than now in the near future; however, the natural environment will remain unchanged and full of challenges.
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