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90 days around the mainland
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15:39, August 21, 2009

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Depositing a furry blue Haibao doll at Potala Palace in Tibet was just one of the highlights of 75-year-old former judge Zhu Junxian's recent road trip around China.

Other memories include sleeping in army barracks, following telegraph poles to map his route, peppering the landscape with expo flags and explaining the significance of the upcoming World Expo to workers and herdsman in China's far-flung west.

Unlike stereotypical road trips involving a beaten-up jalopy, male bonding and drunken debauchery, Zhu set out alone on a bicycle with a flask of green tea.

His aim: to promote the Shanghai Expo to his countryman despite the obvious dangers presented by the harsh climate and high altitudes.

"The lives of us Chinese have benefited from the expo," said Zhu, referring to the millions of dollars Shanghai is spending on urban reconstruction projects ahead of the expo's launch next May. Zhu has already signed up as a volunteer for the six-month event.

"All of us are proud of it," he said. "I will never stop my journey. It's the hobby of a lifetime."

Without the aid of a map or GPS, the veteran biker returned to Shanghai last month from his 90-day jaunt after successfully "sewing the seeds of the expo" in the hearts and minds of those he met along the way.

"More than a century has passed since the World's Fair began and China got the chance to host it. That means 100 years, not just of waiting, but of striving and preparing," he said.

Zhu said he is ready to embark on new trips to promote other important occasions like the 60th anniversary of the founding of new China, which falls on October 1.

He is also planning to establish a temporary shelter in the city for the world's bikers so cycling fans can share their expo experiences and feel more at home.

Zhu, a former court judge of Songjiang district in southwestern Shanghai, fell in love with cycling when he was young.

After surviving the 1950-53 Korean War, he planned to pedal to Beijing to pay his respects to Chairman Mao Zedong. But he did not fulfill his wish until he retired in 1995 at the age of 60.

Since then he has made tracks to every province, autonomous region and municipality in the country to clock an accumulated mileage of 105,000 km, more than double the circumference of the earth.

His latest trip to Tibet was his fifth, the culmination of a series of in-country odysseys that have left him to his own devices for periods of up to 10 months at a stretch.

He described them as personal battles of human endurance, but was dismissive of health risks such as altitude sickness, shortness of breath, headaches and the nosebleeds that reduced levels of oxygen can trigger.

"My experience tells me that anyone can adapt to living in Tibet if they have a healthy lifestyle and are prepared," he said.

He has also had to contend with the elements, cycling through blizzards and using firecrackers to scare away wolves and bears at night.

He recalled one night on his latest escapade when a hailstorm forced him to set up a haphazard camp in the wildness.

In order to keep the tent pegs secure he dug a ditch and tore cables from his bike gears to keep his "hotel room" in place.

To survive the blistering cold he then "borrowed" four sheep from neighboring grasslands and slept among them to use their combined body heat as a shield.

"I covered the eyes of the lambs to make them calm and at ease around me," he said. "It was a peaceful night and I was back on the road again the next morning."

Source: China Daily

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