As the car fleet drove out of the Qinghai-Tibet Highway, heading west into the vast wilderness of Hoh Xil, the mountain patrol in "restricted zone for life" has officially begun.
After leaving the main road, there are no more asphalt roads in Hoh Xil, and our team's car jolted around between mountains and rivers following tracks left by vehicles over the years.
"Antelope!" Suddenly, following the guidance of Jiangwen Dorje, a member of the patrol team and deputy stationmaster at the Sonam Daje Patrol Station, we inadvertently saw the silhouette of a group of Tibetan antelopes. Fellow patrol team members immediately began to record the number of antelope and their activity in notebooks.
"Normally, there are five to seven people in the mountain patrol team, mainly for anti-poaching and anti-piracy, as well as preventing illegal passage through the no-man's land. In different seasons, the team's specific tasks and patrol routes also differ. Each time it takes about 10 days or half a month for a patrol," a patrol member named Puchong told reporters.
"Anti-poaching efforts have continued to increase, and there hasn't been any poaching gunfire heard in the Hoh Xil Nature Reserve since 2006. The number of Tibetan antelope in the nature reserve has recovered to more than 60,000, an increase of 40,000 since the height of poaching."
Along the way, Tibetan antelope, Tibetan gazelles, wild yaks, and wild Tibetan donkey got close to people passing by and appeared at ease.
Banre Gongze, a member of the patrol team, took a notebook to record the animals' activity in detail and marked symbols of the animals on a map. "It's very likely that these animals' activities will become targets of criminals, and they are also areas we will focus on in future."
40-year-old Guo Xuehu was originally a journalist.
"In 2006, I heard that Hoh Xil was recruiting, so I resigned from my post at Yushu Television Station," he said.
As a Tibetan who had grown up in a nomadic area, he was deeply influenced by the story of the first protector of wild animals in Hoh Xil, the martyr Sonam Daje.
"I always hope to be a force in protecting martyr."
In the past 12 years, he has become adept at repairing vehicles and driving.
"We're arriving at the Yidaohe!" The first wide river appeared before the mountain patrol team.
"There's sand on both sides, it's easy for the car to get stuck." Guo Xuehu drove the patrol car hard and crashed through the river, afterwards guiding other patrol cars to cross. Most of the cars got stuck here, and Guo Xuehu also led the rescue with a winch. It took more than an hour to cross the river.
"Don't worry about this!" Guo Xuehu waves his hand. "Remember that once when we were going from Sonam Daje Station to Zhounai Lake, the car got stuck 88 times. It took all night to cross this river!"
In the evening, dark night fell on Hoh Xil, and it soon started to rain again, making the road muddier. Mud covered the car's headlights, and making it hard to see ahead. The driver had no choice but to lean his body forward and identified the road with faint headlights and swaying windshield wipers.
At 10 o'clock at night, after 11 hours of bumping along the road, trudging through more than 120 rivers, and getting stuck and unstuck more than 20 times, the patrol team finally arrived at Zhounai Lake Patrol Station in the interior of the no-man's land in Hoh Xil.