May 9, 2009
From Lhasa we left by train heading northward into “mainland” China. The train we took was completed relatively recently, in 2006. Before taking this train we heard a lot of rumors about i. We heard that it was a massive effort, that most experts around the world told China it was foolish to attempt to build such a thing. We also heard that the train reaches such high elevations that the cabin is pressurized (like airplanes) and that at one point oxygen masks pop down for people to wear where the air is thinnest.
Well, a lot of this turned out to be not really true. The train really does reach some high altitudes, but none were as high as the 5 km passes we crossed by jeep on the way to Lhasa. The cabins are not pressurized, but if you splurge for the soft-sleeper ticket then your bunk comes with oxygen tubes you can stick in your nostrils. These tubes pump air all the time but it’s not clear if it’s particularly oxygenated. Anyhow, Pnina and I took the cheapest option (hard seat) which was comfortable enough for our relatively short ride (we got off at Golmud, a roughly 14 hour journey, whereas most people continued to Xian or Beijing).
Still, the train ride was a good experience, mostly because the views are awesome.
At the Lhasa train station:
The high-altitude desert, mountains, and lakes along the way…
We’re not sure who lives in this tent, but it’s one of the most remote “residences” we’ve ever seen:
A huge line of trucks en route to Tibet:
Hanging out in the dining cart with a couple guys from our tour – Matthias (from Holland) and Michael (US):
Michael testing out the breather tubes in his soft-sleeper bed: