Epic train journey

20 04 2010

After an early dinner at the hostel of garlic tofu and shredded potato with rice we were taken to the train station to await our T22 sleeper train to Lhasa. When we got into our soft sleeper cabin in car 6, 2 chinese people were already in there and had their luggage everywhere. Once they realised they were sharing with 2 foreigners that didn’t speak Chinese, they packed up and swapped rooms with another couple who ended up sleeping for almost the entire journey.

The next day the couple above us was still sleeping. We had breakfast and went and sat in the dining car number 7 for a while until we got kicked out at 11 to make room for the lunch crowd. There was a table gambling over a strange game of sticks/cards. Benno played some games on the computer and Lara read a book. We stopped at Xining station around 4 and the train stocked up on snacks and drinks.

Out the window today we saw mountains and brown rivers, local women wearing headscarfs, solar hot water on roofs, coal and nuclear power plants, sheep, cattle, yaks, horses, snow and 2 big lakes. There were many tunnels and we were probably at about 4000m in altitude.

Day 2 on the train to Tibet, woke up to snow covered mountains and grassland plains. Saw the sunrise and icy rivers- condensation on the windows meant it was cold overnight. The Sun was intense and the skies a perfect blue with the clouds so low it felt like we might be able to go above them. Out the window we saw traditional houses, shepherds with their sheep and yaks, Chinese military convoys and training schools and a big lake.

We arrived in Lhasa around 4.30pm to a huge empty train station and were picked up by our guide and taken to Lhasa International Hostel. We bought snacks and lots of water from the supermarket and caught a taxi (no guide) to Lucky Vegetarian Restaurant where the three of us had dinner for less than $10. A taxi anywhere in the city is $2 (10 yuan). A little tired, but otherwise no altitude sickness problems.