FolkestoneJack's Tracks

Xi’an-Beijing-London

Posted in Beijing, China, Xi'an by folkestonejack on February 28, 2009

After leaving Meijiaping behind we drove back to the congestion of Xi’an where we boarded a hard sleeper for Beijing departing at 18:10.

As we hadn’t eaten that day we had a very pleasant evening meal in the restaurant car, washed down by some good beer. This all helped ensure a good night’s sleep and I awoke an hour before we were due to arrive in Beijing. Unfortunately our train was an hour late, so we got to see a bit more of the countryside than we expected.

Some aspects of the journey seemed quite familiar, but others were anything but – such as the woman walking up and down the carriages selling a selection of porn. I can’t quite see that catching on with the operators of the Caledonian Sleeper or the Cornish Night Riviera in the UK!

Our train eventually made it in to Beijing and with time cut somewhat shorter than expected we had something of a dash to the airport rather. After all the usual checks I was able to board my Air France flight home via Paris and settled in for the duration. Late in the evening I eventually made it back to Heathrow and then on to Selhurst. Home at last!

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Arrival in Xi’an

Posted in Chenghe, China, Xi'an by folkestonejack on February 26, 2009

Arrived at Xi’an in the early morning and managed to navigate my way through the mass of people coming off the train, up the ramp and out through the ticket checks. After untangling myself from the crowds I joined the others in the rather damp square outside the station. The turreted walls of the city would have presented a much more atmospheric sight in any other conditions, but not today. Instead, it was the delicious taste of warm dumplings that provided the greatest satisfaction (I have to admit that the greatest surprise of this trip has been how much I have loved the food).

Although Xi’an had some amazing sights to tempt tourists, not least the terracotta warriors, this was just a staging post on our journey to Chenghe where we would be joining a QJ-hauled charter train on the loess mountain line Podicun viaduct – Chenghe. This was a late substitute for the planned visit to Zoucheng and something of a disappointment for man on the trip, but for me it was to be the first and quite possibly only chance to see a QJ albeit in far from ideal conditions. In a world of ifs and buts, missing the QJs on the Ji-Tong Railway is a big if only for me. I have to temper that by saying that I am nevertheless most grateful for what I have had the opportunity to see on this trip.

Anyway, we found our two buses and began an epic journey to Chenghe. One bus was driven at incredible speed with absolute recklessness in the icy conditions whilst the other was driven slowly with absolute caution. No middle ground at all! The experience was just a little unnerving, not least when we approached the scene of an accident or check on the expressway (a lorry stopped with a police car). It looked too tight. Bernd shouted ‘stop’ and in reaction the driver put his foot hard on the accelerator! Collison narrowly averted, we headed onwards and eventually reached the right expressway exit.

Needless to say, the disparity in driving styles resulted in the buses losing sight of each other and some fairly stressed conversations by mobile between the two buses. The other minibus arrived at the expressway exit about 45 minutes later and we formed a convoy for the final kilometres to the railway. It was a relief to make it.

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