FolkestoneJack's Tracks

The moment I discovered I am not a mountain goat…

Posted in Baiyin, China by folkestonejack on February 24, 2009

There are many ways to spend time but three hours perched on a hillside in Baiyin waiting for a freight train is probably up there with the strangest of them! I had a good chat with Bob while we waited and a quick scan around the surrounding hillsides revealed the perches chosen by other members of the group.

It was an interesting spot amongst the landscape of Baiyin with a cave dwellers property (complete with yapping dog) and disused smelter in the foreground. In the far distance the industrial backdrop of chimneys poked above the hilltops. After a few hours your mind plays many tricks and the thump of the local industry starts to sound like an approaching steam locomotive, or worse, you can hear the slip of a locomotive in the vicinity of Sanyelian before realising it isn’t the freight train you were expecting… this time we were lucky and it eventually materialised at 1.30pm.

A long awaited freight train at Baiyin

A long awaited freight train at Baiyin

You might have thought that this would be enough of hillside scrambling but more was to follow in the afternoon. I soon discovered that I was no mountain goat as I scrambled up the steep hillside to reach a vantage point that had seemed a good idea from the ground. Peter encouraged me as I struggled up the final few metres (when we reached this incredible viewpoint we found Bernd already at the top, having taken a much easier route up!). It was certainly worth it for the view it gave us.

A view like this makes all the effort worthwhile

A view like this makes all the effort worthwhile

I walked back down the line to the smelter and saw the arrival of a banked freight (2 SYs). The efficient operation was quite a sight – the banker dropped off the back quite quickly then the remaining SY shunted the wagons in and out of the buildings before departing itself. After watching the afternoon passenger trains we took the bus on to the mine station in Baiyin itself (a separate station to the mainline station on the China Rail network). This was an exercise in itself as the bus driver got lost and eventually had to persuade an obliging taxi driver to lead the way…

The crossing at Baiyin mine station

The crossing at Baiyin mine station

In many respects this station gave me the first real taste of China beyond the industrial confines as we watched people crossing the line in front of the station, kids playing and people going about their daily business. An absolute joy.

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