Of course I didn't have an early night. The canadian and an israeli girl had me involved in the most weird "jam" one can imagine. There is ONE guitar with 6 strings. One of the tuning keys are broken so it has to be tuned from this string. Then there's another one with three strings left, from which 2 - that cannot be tuned either - fits almost with the first one and in the end a very small one that some fool has tuned up a forth, so when you play d on one of them you have to play g on the other. And nobody dare change the tuning fearing the strings will break. It's lovely. But doesn't sound like taht I'm sure, but great fun - for some time. The songs I know - even I miss some of the poetry - the others don't know. I wonder why the canadian, who is 35, don't know Don McLean who - as far as I remember - is canadian. I've really grown old it seems. Radiohead and that sort of stuff means nothing to me except for the name.
But we agree on "Leaving on a Jetplane".
Well, I'm in bed before 24.
They asked yesterday if I wanted to join a bike tour today. It lasted too long, so I couldn't. But they haven't left yet by the time I'm going for a ride, I find out I can join them. I have my own bike and can just go back whenever I need to - it can stay at the hostel until I come back from Kunming.
This shows to be a good idea. Sometimes I pass interesting places but always by coincidence. Now I have a local guide. First we go through a park at the river, I didn't notice myself even I've passed by 4-5 times. Very lovely. Lost of chinese doing all kind of things. Some practising Tai Chi in costumes with streamers. Some other spot people are dancing. It's quite common here - to put up a tape recorder and then people drop by... Mostly elderly people. I haven't seen men dancing with men but often women with women.
Later we stop at a chinese christian church, that I wouldn't have noticed if I'd passed it. Unfortunately the guide can't tell me the meaning of the four characters behind the alter. Our bicycle guide seems not so familiar with religious topics. I only understand that it's one of the numerous four character expressions. He can read the characters, but doesn't know the meaning of this expression. At least not in english.
Here I leave the group that consisted of me, a frech girl, a turk, a pole, an israelian - who's an atheist - and our two guides - the bicycle guy who I've been speaking to a lot and Elaine, who during the ride have asked me about the song we sang yestersay? I only remember "Country Road", but that wasn't the one, she knew that... I remember suddenly "Leaving on a Jetplane" and sing the first verse and explain what it's about. I'll havee to momorize the last two verses, I'll be asked to sing it again - when I return, I think.
I leave one hour before the train leaves. On my way out I meet with one of the two swedish guys that just arrived, and talk to him for some time. He doesn't understand a word of danish he tells me - so we speak english. That's the way it goes, not even neighbors can understand each other any more. It's due the TV of today. In earlier times we watched swedish television and learned that way. Today there are so many programmes and most are poor american series. But today they're much better at english than we were - at least. But I still watch ice-hockey at the swedish channels.
At the busstop around the corner the first 55 is filled to the brim. I give up getting up with my backpack and wait for the next one. It's nice to be early. There's a secutiry check at the entrance to the station, but they're fast.
Chinese train stations in the cities are HUGE. I've tried before in Wuhan. So I quickly find the right waiting hall. In the ticket is train no., time for leaving, destination, wagon no. and seat no. And if it's buttom, middle or upper berth. And everything shows up in time. In one end of the waiting hall there are two gatees, both closed. The right one is for K165, that is my train. So I watch it. In the other is a giant board with a list of all train numbers. I cannot read the rest but I soon find out that when it's shown in the proper orange characters it's time to board the train.
At the gate the ticket is checked. I just follow all the others. A l-o-n-g corridor with stairs down to the different trains. The next is K165. Wagon no. so and so to the left, no. 10 - 1 to the right, mine is no.6. At the wagon the ticket is controlled once more. I find 11 bottom and have my backpack placed under the bed. That's one advantage of lying there. I found out last time in Wuhan, where some young people helped me buying the ticket, and when I booked through Mix Hostel, they asked at once if I wanted bottom berth? Yes, please. 20 RMB extra to have them book the ticket. I've turned lazy, but it's also safer.
They're strict about everything here, but it's probably needed with all these people?
|Bicycling in the city...||...in front of a chinese christian church|
When the train leaves - on time - they play "Should old acquaintance be forgot..."
through the loudspeaker and a ladys voice welcome us on board. I guess that's
what she says...
Later a new ticket collecting lady turns up and changes the ticket into an electronic? card. That's something new - like so many other things. Everything changes so fast. In the first half an hour we go through Chengdu - or rather - arround it. We start at the north rainway station and are heading south. Nobody cares about me after I've nodded around in a friendly way. It's nice to be able to sit quietly and write. All the social activities the last days have filled me up and now I need to be ready for Sophia and her class mates in Kunming.
We stop in the outskirts of Chengdu, maybe at a station. Soon after a freight train passes in the other direction, and we go on immidiately after. That was apparently why we were waiting. Just after we're in the countryside.
And soon the first ricefields are there. But the most important crop seems to be rape, that has alrady faded. Two years ago it blossomed here in mid april longer up north. The surroundings change more and more into Sichuans typical waving hills with villages in the more flat areas.
Just as the mountains rise to the west after a couple of hours, we arrive at a bigger town and stop. Not so long after we pass the first tunnel. And then they come. From time to time directly from one tunnel to the next. In short glimpses I see the river lower more and more. In the valley i see the terraces up the opposite mountain side. New tunnels. Suddenly I see two men in deep conversation not noticing the train, that rolls by. There's also a parked car.
There's a violent blow to the train, maybe because we change from going upwards to going downwards. There's a dam across the river somewhere and it's running in the opposite direction. It's we that are going up. The blow to the train is repeated, but nobody seems to care, even it's violent.
There's a giant lake behind the dam. The mountains rise in the distance. We pass another tunnel and go again along the lake that little by little turns into a river again, you can see from the current.
While we've stopped in a tunnel a girl from the staff comes and stands in the corridor at my compartment with two toothbrushes. It's like the security breefing on the plane. Do they have compulsary toothbrushing? Not the last time I went by train in China. She shows how the head can be bend. Her mouth keeps talking for at least five minutes. Nobody seems to care andd she just churns on. When she shuts up in the end, she comes walking through the carriage with her arms filled with toothbrushes. It was apparently a sales talk. She also talked like she's been paid. Now we know how to brush our teeth - some of us.
It's getting near 20 and it gets darker, soon one can hardly see if we are IN a tunnel or OUTSIDE a tunnel. From time to time lights from villages can be seen. The train rumbles sleep inducting on, some people are still talking. The father next to us, who's been shouting at his son all the time - not angrily - it was just his normal voice it seemed - must have gone to sleep - the boy too.
At 21 I lie down. Hard sleeper is harder than I remembered. After having tossed and turned through sleep I'm suddenly awake thinking it might be morning? I can't see my watch, so here my chinese knife does me good. 1.30. The young couple opposite have left in the dark. I'm awake and lying there thinking. We pass several bridges, I can tell from the sound.
Then I disappears from this world once again. When I from time to time return I hear snoring around me in many different pitches, sometimes it's all remarkable quiet. The violent blows appear now and again. Some times it's like the rails are not fully alined, we're thrown from side to side.
At half past six I come alive. The light is coming on. I get up and look outside. I'm not quite sure about the colors, but it looks very brown. Sophia has told me about draught. As the light gets brighter I look out at Yunnans parched mountainsides. Green agaves gives the landscape a speckled look. The mountains are waving much higher than in Sichuan.
We go through incessant tunnels, and when the light is there again, I look at ravines cutting through the mountains - and disappear into a tunnel once more. Small brown villages and checked brown field squares, where wonderful green stripes are seen. Then we enter broader valleys where tiny human ants walk around the fields.
In the end I hear something in the loudspeaker I understand - partly. "Kunming... shi dian... er shi...", Kunming... 10 o'clock...something like 20.. It's sound like we're on time. I bring on my mobile to send a sms to Sophia, like I promised. No signal, damn.
When there's still no signal I mess a bit with the phone. I'm no expert, but I succeed having it search for networks. CMCC and CHS-GH. The first one is mine. I could phone FROM SIchuan. But I can only phone FROM Sichuan, it seems? Damn!!
|The train station from outside...||...and from inside|