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Feature: Chinese paddler to kayak alone from Xinjiang to Arctic Ocean
2017-11-01 source:Xinhua
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The Irtysh River flows from Hou Zhili's hometown, and leads to the destination of this kayaker's dream trip. Huo plans to travel to the Arctic Ocean in a most incredible way -- alone on a kayak.

Setting sail from his home in Fuyun County, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, the 41-year-old has completed what many see as epic feats -- kayaking unpowered for a total of 2,020 kilometers on the China section and Kazakhstan section of Irtysh in 2014 and in 2016.

The paddler is preparing for the final and most challenging stage on the 2,200-kilometer long Russia section, plus a 1,000-kilometer long lower reach section of the Ob River to reach the Arctic Ocean.

From its source in the Altay Mountain in Fuyun, the 4,248-kilometer long Irtysh River flows northwest through Kazakhstan, and in Russia merges with the Ob River, which flows into the Arctic Ocean. Irtysh is the only river in China that leads to the Arctic Ocean.

His Arctic aspirations began when Huo was a teenager. In the 1980s, several whitewater kayakers' adventured on China's two largest rivers, the Yangtze and the Yellow River, arousing a craze among bold Chinese who took to rafting on streams across the country. Some people succeeded, but many attempts failed, with deadly results.

In Hou's hometown, some youngsters even drifted for hundreds of kilometers along the Irtysh on rafts made of waste tires.

The middle-aged Hou decided to close his graphic design company in 2012 and turned his kayaking hobby into a full-time occupation.

After arduous training, Hou set out alone on August 28, 2014, on his yellow and orange boat from Koktokay, a town near the Irtysh's source. He paddled for 50 kilometers a day, and took 23 days to arrive at Kaba County, where the 520-kilometer long China section ends.