2 Days to Tibet, over the roof of the World

Trip Start Dec 19, 2008
Trip End Dec 19, 2009

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Qinghai Tibet Train

Flag of China  , Qinghai,
Saturday, November 7, 2009

Saturday 7th November. Bleary eyed we saw that our Chinese men had left and we had the cabin to ourselves and since the stewards did not replace their upper bunks’ sheeting we presumed we were in the cabin to Lhasa on our own. Yay! We had our instant porridge (WA Australian oats the pack says) and coffee and were happily content to watch the scenery from the train windows. Today we watched high mountains pass us as we seemed to climb higher and the valleys we deeper. The smog in the rural and town Areas was still very dense and chokingly thick. We stopped teices long enough to get out of the train and buy drinks of beer and colas. It was not too cold, in fact in the train we are wearing short sleeved tops. Towards the later afternoon our loudspeakers told us we were entering the Qinghai province in central west China where the Yello and Yangzi and Mekong rivers all begin in the high mountains. This province leads us south across the Tibetan plateau into Tibet. It is here that the newly built railway the Qinghai -Tibet railway in 2005 connected the rail from Xining to the high altitude rail into Tibet. We saw the landscape change as the altitude got higher and we were warned about Acute Mountain Sickness on the loudspeakers. As the sun set and into the night we saw the land become drier and barren as the farms ave way to barren plateaus. We managed to get a hot meal of rice and veges with sparse bits of chicken so were glad of the fresh meal from the dining car which we took away to our cabin. At night we found it hard to sleep probably due to the altitude. It also got colder in the train .
Sunday 8th November. After a poor sleep where during the night we passed massive industrial areas in the middle of seemingly nowhere we saw the sun rise about 8am across snowy, icy plains ansd hills. It was stuning scenery and just got more impressive as the day unfolded. We passed the highest pass at over 5,000m and we passed a tiny station in the middle of the plains station the altitude was 5,074m there.The loudspeaker talked about the miracle of the railway being built on the permafrost and we saw the icy ground and were told it was the permafrost of frozen soil. We passed hills of snow and grassy plains where yak, deer, donkeys and sheep grazed. The rivers some frozen criss crossed the valleys and around lunchtime we passed the highest fresh water lake in the world and it was clear azure blue with snow peaks as the background. There were ducks in the lake and what seemed to be wood chucks in the ground beside the lake. Yak and sheep grazed beside the lake As we descended in altitude the scenery became grassier and the snow and ice disappeared to reveal isolated tiny communities of herders who had large flocks of yak and sheep. We had seen only wild deer and donkeys at the highest levels but the grazers were more frequent at the lower levels. The sun was intensely shining and no haze at all up here away from the Chinese pollution.. Such beautiful scenery we are so glad we are doing this trip.By 5 pm we had descended towards Lhasa and as we travelled near the highway for some hours we noticed there were groups of Tibettan people walking along the roadside but with each step they prostrated themselves face down on the ground with protective paddles on their hands, they were Buddhists making the pilgrimmage to Lhasa. The villages increased in numbers as we got closer to the capital and the yak herds increased in numbers as well. At 6pm we entered the Lhasa valley and 5km from the city we pulled into the station having glimpsed the Potala palace (where the Dalai lamas over the centuries ruled) from the rail bridge crossing the river.
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