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Transit to Dunhaung

Our train to Dunhaung was a real hard sleeper. As we were to later discover, the hard sleeper we took to Kashgar was a bizarre variant. This was one open car, immaculately clean, lined with bunks, 3 layers high. Each bunk was short, and the higher bunks were narrow enough that the the metal bar protecting one from falling greatly hampered one’s ability to lay. But the color scheme was a refreshing white and lavender. And for some reason, the day in Kashgar had put us in such a fantastic mood, that we might as well have been staying at a giant rolling Ritz Carlton.

Melons on the train to Dunhuang

We encountered a delightful Swiss graphic designer, named Helen, who was also bound for Dunhuang. She rode on one of the bunks above us. And, right on the dot, the train began crawling towards Dunhuang. The crawling, I suppose, may have been symptomatic of the landscape. We were traveling though some pretty intense stretches of desert. I invite you to investigate this at higher resolution using our maps section or Google earth with the down-loadable KML file. Perhaps it is so costly to put people out in there in the wasteland that maintenance on these tracks is simply too expensive to keep them in good shape, and hence the crawling pace. Regardless of the reason, the train rolled on like one with tender feet walking across gravel.

Endless Gobe Desert on the Way to Dunhuang

We lazed on, unabated, reading, eating pastries, and playing whist. Eventually, we convinced Helen to join us in a round or two of sh**thead before the strict 10:00 curfew was enforced.

It seems that these normal hard sleepers, at 10 on the dot, the lights are switched out. Your hot water thermos is taken away from you, and all the shutters are drawn. We attempted to play cards further with a rigged up headlamp. This artificial light source was passively discouraged, though, through frequent visits to check for garbage and poke around with a special stick that the conductors have been issued. This stick is much like that gardening tool which has a short handle and a three pronged claw (the name alludes me; please feel free to provide it in the comments), except that the handle is very long, and rather than gardening, it is an implement to facilitate in the obsessive alignment of passengers shoes. All night long, a conductor patrols the train, aligning shoes and keeping people in line with stern glances. At each station it is this man who is is charge of locking all bathrooms, and, coincidentally, the passages stuck between cars. At many times one is left stranded one in a foreign car, clenching through a drastic pain in his bladder-piece.

So, though we were having a great time, dealing cards, drinking Xinjiang beers and eating Uighur snackmix (some odd but tasty blend of wasabe peas, peanuts, horsebeans, and a few other shapes of fried detritus), we relented to the osmotic dogma and slept.


Comments

  1. Lenore | July 15th, 2008 | 1:01 pm

    That gardening tool – with the long handle and three prongs is a cultivator. And now we understand that through this train trip you have become quite cultivated ;-)

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