Jo and I have a bad habit of not sleeping the night before a long journey. Our rationale is that we could always sleep on the transport. We also do not sleep for a more practical reason… We are normally still doing our last minute packing…
We quickly realized from our first long bus ride (from Chengdu to Jiuzhaigou) that our normal mode of operation was not going to work here. Try as I would, I just couldn’t fall asleep on the bus because there was just too much to see.
The first leg of the bus journey passed through the quake-hit area of Sichuan. We saw concrete bridges snapped into so many little pieces, mountains that had been split down the middle and rivers that had had their courses diverted. The landscape slowly shifted to the mountainous area of Sichuan where yaks roam and the deer and the antelopes play (ok… So they are all yaks…but who’s counting beans?). After which, the scenery shifted to those of the Tibetan people’s village life. There was just so much to take in that sleep was not possible.
Right now, we are on hour 40 of our 44 hour train ride from Chengdu to Lhasa along the Qinghai-Tibet railway.
For us, it’s been 40 hours since our last bath and 40 hours since any of our gadgets had been charged. But we’re not complaining (not really yet, anyway). The lack of charging points in the train means we needed to conserve the charges and not use our laptop/handphones/psp as freely as we would normally would. I can’t say I am used to this yet (hence I am writing this post), but it is kinda refreshing as it forces us to slow down and appreciate the nature around us. Looking at all the wide open landscape really does a mental number on me as I’ve lived most of my life in a concrete jungle. I think it’s been some time since I sat down with my own thoughts, without the distraction of any electronic devices (PS3, I am looking at you).
This has been a long train ride but I have yet to cease to marvel at the amount of resources it must have taken to finish the railroad.
I mean so far the railroad has brought us to the remotest parts of China where civilization could not be seen for miles around, and (from what I could see from our temperature-controlled cabin) through some of the harshest and most extreme conditions nature could offer. I am talking about high altitudes (5000++ m above sea levels, anybody?), extreme temperature differences (from what I’ve been told, -15° c to 45° c), and through some insane terrains (arid desert/snow covered mountains/over raging rivers). The Chinese are proud of this railroad and rightly so.
For us, it is just very hard to believe that our last 40 hours had been spent in the same country.