This photo taken on Nov. 20, 2023 shows Absemet Kerem posing for pictures at Qianmen street in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua/Chen Zhonghao)
URUMQI, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- After 280 days of trekking over 5,000 km, Absemet Kerem finally made it from Kashgar, northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, to Tian'anmen Square in downtown Beijing.
The 24-year-old was so excited when he arrived in the capital that he could not fall asleep. He rushed to Tian'anmen Square at midnight just to get the perfect spot in the first row. "In my hometown, we raise the national flag once every Monday at the village committee. My father is in the front row every time," he said.
Watching the national flag-raising ceremony at Tian'anmen Square was his childhood dream. "The story of Kurban Tulum has touched many people in Xinjiang, and is also encouraging me to realize my dream," he said.
A landless poor peasant in Yutian County, Xinjiang, Kurban finally had his own land after the liberation of Xinjiang. Though he was already in his 70s in the 1950s, he tried several times to ride a donkey from Xinjiang to Beijing to express his gratitude. He was persuaded to give up, but eventually made it to Beijing, though not on donkey, and met Chairman Mao Zedong.
Absemet Kerem trekked across the Taklimakan Desert, China's largest desert, and Duku Highway, one of China's most beautiful roads, in 2022. At the beginning of this year, he decided to walk from Kashgar to Beijing.
He spent more than a month preparing for this trip and made himself a trolley which contained tents, kitchen utensils and other supplies. After the Spring Festival, he started his journey on Feb. 7, accompanied by his dog named Shunfeng.
"I have witnessed the development and changes of my hometown over the years. I want to take this opportunity to bring the love of the people in my hometown for our motherland to Beijing," he said.
The 5,000-km journey rewarded him with breathtaking views -- deserts, snow-capped mountains, rivers, and dangerous peaks. He visited the National Museum of Chinese Writing and the Shaolin Temple in central China's Henan Province and the Giant Wild Goose Pagoda in northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
"I have a brand-new understanding of the vast land and abundant resources of my country," he said.
Cold weather in winter, heat in summer, sandstorms, and heavy rains all posed challenges on his journey, and he was once hospitalized for a bacterial infection. However, he was also warmed by the help and kindness of strangers, who gave him food and welcomed him to stay during rain and snow.
His story has gone viral on social media and he has over 430,000 followers on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok. He has posted videos along his 280-day trek and received encouragements from netizens.
"Trekking is a process through which you enrich yourself, make friends and know the world," he said. "Although modern means of transportation such as planes and trains are very convenient, my experience of realizing my dream by foot is quite different."
Trekkers never settle. Absemet Kerem is planning to walk to Lhasa, southwest China's Xizang Autonomous Region, next year. "No matter how big the challenge is, I will never stop trekking," he said. ■
This photo taken on Nov. 20, 2023 shows Absemet Kerem tasting Tanghulu, a traditional Chinese snack of candied fruit, in Beijing, capital of China. (Xinhua/Chen Zhonghao)