For 67-year-old Cheng Demei and his family, you can never be too old, or too young, to achieve a lifelong dream.
Last summer Cheng set out for Tibet, a land of dizzy altitudes and glacial temperatures, with his family in their MINI Paceman.
“I guess this might be one of the most exceptional family cross-country trips ever,” said Cheng.
Cheng was a TV cameraman and screenwriter in Beijing, and had traveled across the vast lands of Tibet during his career many times, taking different routes each time.
He said his entire family has “cultivated a deep-rooted connection with this famously unforgiving landscape”. His first trip was with his father in the late 1960s as part of a scientific expedition and he continued the family tradition more recently with his son in the early 1990s.
“This family’s love for Tibet continues to stretch through the generations,” he said.
Despite his many experiences and decades of trekking to the “roof of the world” Cheng had never tried the five most extreme and famous Tibetan routes.
With wanderlust still unquenched, he set out to conquer the final frontier.
In August 2013, a convoy of MINIs set off from five different locations, all with Mount Everest as their end destination. The month-long journey covered a combined distance of 70,000 km, and made MINI the first car to drive all five routes through the region.
Having already traveled the Sichuan-Tibet, Yunnan-Tibet and Qinghai-Tibet routes, Cheng and his wife decided to tackle the daunting Xinjiang-Tibet road, the highest, most oxygen-deprived and coldest route of all.
The couple were joined by their son, an experienced traveler himself who makes annual trips to Tibet, and their 13-year-old grandson.
The family left on Aug 6, from Kargilik county in Xinjiang. The following three weeks of driving took them over dangerous desert terrain, through the sharp peaks of the Kunlun mountains, across glaciers in Aksai Chin and finally to Dingri county in Tibet on Sept 1.
As the road stretched on to 10 different mountain peaks, the altitude exceeded 5,000 meters above sea level. It could go up 1,300 m within one day of driving.
There were sometimes awe-inspiring views, but often there was nothing in sight except a desolate and vast landscape.
The MINI Paceman made it through the severe terrains and treacherous roads without any trouble. The Cheng family avoided any altitude sickness, which brings so many mountainous journeys to an early end.
Not forgetting to enjoy themselves along the way, the family celebrated the 67th birthday of Cheng’s wife on the summit of Guge Mountain, the highest point of their route.
The family regrouped with the rest of the MINI pack at the beginning of September in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. After a much needed rest and refuel they set off for their final destination: Everest’s Base Camp.
On the road to Mount Everest was Rongbu Buddhist Temple, the world’s highest temple, standing at 5,248 m above sea level, where the colorful prayer flags fluttered against a vast mountainous backdrop.
There the team rested and made preparations for the final push and the resident monks enjoyed a test drive.
With muddy hubcaps and dust-streaked bumpers, the MINIs on all five routes made it through everything the journey threw at them, from the burning sun to the bitter winds.
Deng said that Tibet was “much more than incredible landscapes and ancient folk traditions”, as three generations of his family gathered under Mount Everest, humbled by their expedition and shared experience.
Summing up his feeling of simple but immense gratification, he said the trip was “good, pretty good.”

Source: China daily