XINING, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- On an early winter morning, five trucks loaded with feed left Zhiduo County, Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture in northwest China's Qinghai Province, and headed west along the newly paved road toward Soga Village.
Now is the time to stock up on forage for cattle and sheep in Soga. "Thanks to the asphalt road, it only takes three hours to drive from the county seat to the village, nearly six hours shorter than before," said Wu Yi, Party secretary of the village.
With an average altitude of about 4,700 meters, Soga is well known as the "village on the horizon." Anoxia, remoteness and limiting natural conditions have made road construction more difficult there, meaning that Soga was once one of the last five towns and villages in Qinghai Province that had no access to hardened roads.
Before the asphalt road was paved, the road linking Zhiduo with Soga was a rural one -- which was narrow, dilapidated and bumpy. "In the past, when there was only a simple gravel road, it took nine hours to drive from the village to the county, even when the weather was fine, and 10 hours were needed on rainy and snowy days," Wu said.
Construction of the first phase of a highway began in July 2018, with a planned length of 276.6 km from Zhiduo to Soga. Difficulties followed after the road broke ground.
"The average altitude of the highway is more than 4,550 meters above sea level and the peak reaches over 4,800 meters. The cold and oxygen-deficient environment was a huge challenge for the workers," said Yan Renwei, a project manager of the Jiaokong Construction Engineering Group Co., Ltd. in Qinghai.
"Every morning when we woke up, our faces were swollen and lips always purple from lack of oxygen," Yan said, adding that three batches of construction workers had been changed in around four years. "At its worst, nearly a third of 20 new workers dropped out with severe altitude sickness."
The construction period in Soga is only about three months a year. Every February, when construction workers arrived at the site in advance to make preparations, the lowest temperature could reach about minus 40 degrees Celsius, Yan said.
"Rain and snow are very frequent on the plateau. Last year, there was continuous rain and snow for nearly one month, sometimes there would be rain showers seven or eight times in one day," Yan said. "The construction workers could only dry the sand and gravel during breaks in the rain. It's a race against time."
Cering Zhaxi, a herdsman in Soga, took the initiative to join the construction team. Seeing the long-awaited asphalt road being built step by step, Cering Zhaxi was very excited. "Years of our dreams finally came true, and we are all witnesses," he said.
The asphalt road, officially put into use in October this year, has greatly facilitated travel for the herdsmen.
By November, all towns and villages in Qinghai had achieved access to hardened roads. "People used to say that Soga is far away -- like a village on the horizon. Now the road to prosperity is just ahead of us. I plan to do some small business in Soga, and the future will definitely be better," Cering Zhaxi said.