Ash Dykes is a Welsh adventurer and author of the book Mission Possible, in which he recounts his record-breaking solo treks through the Altai Mountains, Gobi Desert, Mongolian Steppe and Madagascar. Dyke’s most recently completed adventure was an expedition down Asia’s longest river, the Yangtze, from its start to the sea.
Prior to his trip from the Yangtze’s point of origin to where the river pours into the East China Sea near Shanghai, we spoke with the 28-year-old adventurer about his then unaccomplished goal. Now, in the wake of his 6,437-kilometer achievement, we’ve caught up with the North Wales native to learn more about his awe-inspiring, yearlong trek down the Yangtze.
What’s the first thing you did after finishing the Yangtze River expedition?
I crossed the finish line with family, friends, media, press and followers; there were over 100 [people] with me and we were livestreaming on Douyu to millions. It was a really exciting time and overwhelming to have such immense support for the remaining 3 kilometers. We ran the last 20 meters and popped the champagne bottle right before interviews began. We finished in style and it was an incredible feeling.
Image via Ash Dykes
You previously told us that you spent two years preparing for the expedition. Did everything go as planned? What were the most unexpected incidents that happened on your journey?
The two years were very intense, with logistics, management, coordination and preparation for the documentary and book, as well as making sure I knew all the challenges and things that could go wrong. One of the biggest setbacks was getting the official and correct permission to be able to do this, and then a two-month delay with visas. Then, one month before I flew to China, we realized that there is a true and scientific source which is longer and more official than the traditional source, so I now had to plan to start the journey there.
You were sharing your journey online. How did the Chinese community react?
The local Chinese people following the journey were incredible, I will never forget the amazing support I had throughout, both on social media and in person with people joining me. It was great to share stories and videos that Chinese people were shocked by or unfamiliar with. I was able to [livestream] along the way and also take interviews – I even did a photo shoot with Jacky Heung to launch the new co-branded range between Jet Li and Adidas for GQ magazine.
What are some of the most memorable moments?
Some of the most memorable [moments] would be witnessing the different cultures and traditions, from learning the local delicacies – like ‘blowing pig’s liver’ and pasha worm – to dancing with Chongqing’s urban street dancers. Mandarin Films joined me at different stages to film for a national and international documentary, we’ve caught so much footage that I can’t wait to share.
Where did you grow up? And how did your youth help to shape the adventurer you are today?
I grew up in North Wales in the UK, just a normal guy with a normal upbringing. It’s a beautiful place and there is a little bit of everything – mountains, forests, lakes – with sometimes pretty hard-core conditions. It’s my training ground and where I prepare myself for my expeditions.
What is your next expedition?
I’ve fallen in love with China and the people. I think this is just the beginning of a very long career in China, so I’m pleased to say that I believe my next expedition will also be in China.
This interview has been edited for clarity.
[Cover image via Ash Dykes]