Jane Macartney reports for The Times from Beijing

Aleksandr Zverev sheltered for three weeks in caves after being flung from his raft in the Chinese wilderness.

By night he covered himself with leaves and branches to ward off frostbite. By day he drank river water and hoped for a miracle. He went without food for 25 days.

What started as the adventure holiday of a lifetime, shooting the rapids of one of the fastest-flowing and most dangerous rivers in western China, was ending in tragedy.

Mr Zverev believed that the river, which swells for only two months a year, had claimed the lives of his five companions. The remote Taklamakan Desert — its name means “you go in but you don’t come out” — was threatening to do the same to him.

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