Burning rubber: the HigKing Group enjoys a city walk from downtown to Sheshan. [Photo provided to shanghai star]
Taking the road less traveled is a good way to keep fit and have fun, according to a group who likes to walk long and far. Yu Ran jogs along to get the whole story.
Xiu Shui says hiking helps enrich people's lives, and makes their personalities "more optimistic and bright". Xiu, 27, started a hiking group called HigKing in 2012 to explore areas outside the city.
It attracted university graduates and office workers who enjoy visiting places far away from tourist attractions and five-star hotels. To save money, members would take public transport to their chosen destinations.
"Our activities include long-distance walking tours in the city and more challenging trips to different places outside the city," says Xiu, a full-time Web engineer.
The name of the group combines the words "high" and "hiking" and refers to the physical challenges of extreme hiking. Xiu had lived in Nanjing, Jiangsu province previously, where he regularly took part in hikes.
He moved to Shanghai in 2012 and initially had trouble finding other people interested in hiking. He organized his first hiking event in October of that year, and 80 people attended.
Pastoral pleasures: at a rape flowers field in Wuyuan, Jiangxi. [Photo provided to shanghai star]
"We want to explore the hidden beauty of nature and make friends, traveling around on foot, away from our busy and stressful working life," Xiu says.
Xiu organizes city walking tours weekly and hiking trips outside Shanghai every month. The events are held on weekends or during holidays, and on average around 100 people turn up.
During summer, some hikes take place late in the afternoon because of the high temperatures.
"Our group is a social community facilitating physical exercises, the meeting of the like-minded and lets us know ourselves better by breaking our own limits," Xiu says.
Like Xiu, other members of the group also take part in the activities to make friends and challenge themselves.
"My first hiking experience took place in the night of Nov 11, 2012, when I walked about 20 kilometers without stopping until sunrise," says Tu Mi, 26, a PhD student at Shanghai Normal University.
Tu says the hike was therapeutic, as she had just moved to Shanghai and was feeling lonely. Members of the group also meet for dinner, and watch films and attend exhibitions together, Tu says.
Spiritual side: the hikers rest and reflect by the coast of Shanghai. [Photo provided to shanghai star]
"Hiking is a kind of spiritual practice, which is like the process of conquering difficulties in real life as there is no turning back in both occasions," she says.
Stone Chen, 27, an accounts executive at a network technology company, joined the hiking group just because he likes to run. Chen says he has discovered a lot of new places around the city since joining the group.
"It's different from traveling with a group through a travel agency," he says. "We spend more time together and get along, during both tough situations and happy moments," Chen says.
To attract new members, Xiu plans to add new hiking routes and other activities.
Grit and sand: on a trip to Zhoushan Island, Zhejiang province. [Photo provided to shanghai star]
A GROWING FAD
China has some of the world's most spectacular natural scenery, with amazing hiking trails that attract a large number of sports enthusiasts.
The idea of hiking as a leisure hobby is still a new concept in China. Locals have certainly embraced it over the past couple of years, and it remains an activity that attracts mostly young people looking for excitement and challenges.
Hiking in China has grown rapidly in the past few years due to better economic conditions and awareness of a more healthy lifestyle. Hiking clubs are becoming more popular as more people see them as an ideal way to escape busy and crowded city life.
If you are interested in joining a hiking tour, you should be prepared to walk a long distance. Here are some tips that will help you prepare for your hike.
Long-distance hiking (over 30 km)
People who participate in long-distance hikes should know that these hikes are not for beginners. Stretching and warming up are essential.
City walk (up to 20 km)
No experience is required to take part in the city walk tour, and stretching and warming up is not necessary.
1. A pair of comfortable shoes suitable for long-distance hiking.
2. A backpack for personal belongings, snacks and drinking water.
3. Other equipment for camping or climbing, when required.