Chinese couple heading for the last frontier:the Antarctic
BEIJING, Dec. 2 : Thirty years ago, a chubby Chinese boy promised to take his sweetheart to the South Pole. It was the girl’s dream to see the “world’s most remote place.”
Zhang Xinyu was ten and Liang Hong was eight when they decided “to play together for a lifetime.”
Almost a lifetime later, and Zhang and Liang have announced to the world that they are taking a little a trip to the bottom of the earth: the South Pole.
“We are simple people with great pride in our nation. The South Pole is our Chinese dream, and we are going to make it come true in a plane that was made by China,” Zhang told Xinhua.
Zhang said that the couple was always on the road, travelling to some of the world’s most remote and inhospitable places for more than ten years.
“We always had our childhood dream of going to the Antarctic in mind. After years of exploring, we are finally ready. We are confident and capable. Flying there is perhaps more ambitious than going overland,” Zhang said.
Opportunities come to those who seek them. Since 2008, the couple has travelled to the “most challenging but exciting places” by land, sea and air.
They travelled through strife-torn Somalia; wondered at the ghost of Chernobyl in Ukraine; shivered at Oymyakon, the coldest place in the northern hemisphere; and sweltered near the lava flows of Marum, one of the world’s most active volcanoes.
In 2014, the pair made an 18,000-mile trip in a yacht they had modified themselves, across the Pacific Ocean and heading south to the Antarctic before cruising up the coast of North and South America.
Their expeditions and the online video stream “On the Road” have brought them both national and international fame.
Their modified Y-12 plane “Superwhite” is a “heroic old plane” which had ferried scientists on exploration missions for 32 years before the couple bought it from China Flying-Dragon General Aviation. The Y-12 is 100 percent Chinese, designed and built, with an airworthiness certificate from the United States Federal Aviation Administration.
“‘Superwhite’ is ready to fly to China’s Zhongshan Station and on to the South Pole!” Zhang said.
As an air force veteran, Zhang is fan of all aircraft and in 2016, the couple both obtained pilots’ licenses.
“Many fans of ‘On the Road’ were curious as to why we stopped updating the stream. We were learning to fly!” Liang said.
Zhang is qualified in nine aircraft and Liang in six models, including helicopters.
“Flying is a serious business. We are moved by the couple’s courage in pursuing their dream, and are making every effort to support them,” said Li Xinming, vice president of China Flying-Dragon, who prepared tailored courses for the daredevil pair.
“We are ready,” Liang said.
THE GREAT AWAKENING
“The most most magical about Zhang is that when he boasts about something, he goes out and makes it come true,” Liang said
On their travels, the couple have learned to cherish the better aspects of humankind.
“There is light in desperation and warmth in the cold. We have seen so many people in sorrow or misery, but have found a warming light inside all of them,” she said.
Liang remembers a hug from an Iraqi girl who had suffered some horrific experiences.
“When we were finding it extremely hard to find words to comfort her, when she just stepped forward to embrace me,” Liang said.
Liang said she was suddenly warmed by the girl’s bravery. And the girl’s words about her ordeal will forever stay in her mind: “Not so bad; I escaped. The doctors saved my life.”
Heart-wrenching moments like this drive the childhood sweethearts on.
“I suddenly ‘woke up’ when I served as a rescue volunteer after the Sichuan earthquake,” Zhang said.
“People never know what will come tomorrow,” Liang added.
They expect to set out for the frozen south before the end of the year. The 80,000 km journey will take them across more than twenty countries, the equator and the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans.
“It was our childhood dream. We love our lives and want to live for long time, but always on the road,” Liang said.
“If we could do more, we would like to help more Chinese to see more of the world. And with that, show the world a new generation of Chinese.”