November 3, 2019 – Sleeper Train

I’ve just boarded the train with my group, travelling from one place in China to another. I can’t remember and I’ll look it up later. My mum knew last night when I chatted with her so perhaps I’ll reference that transcript.

Boarding the train was a titch stressful. It is a busy train so it looked like us solo travellers (myself and my roommate) might have had to share a compartment with strangers instead of other members of our group. It’s just the way the tickets were bought – wherever space is available. But there was luck, as when we boarded the train, there was a whole compartment that was empty so four of us from the group occupied it very thoroughly with our massive suitcases and ourselves. Two other solo travellers from the group would have shared it otherwise with out group leader. A nice gentleman (stranger) also would have shared with them, but our group leader helped to explain the switch, and he didn’t mind.

Now we are four cozy ladies in a “soft sleeper” compartment on the way to Yangshuo (I looked it up). There is a western toilet at one end of the carriage, and the carriage next to us is the dining car. I might go look at the dining car, but I brought a stash of McDonalds and some other snacks that should suffice. We are on the train for 15 hours: 1pm Sunday to 6am Monday. I don’t mind a sleepover train, once the rush to attain and then organize compartments is complete. The rocking and swaying is soothing. And I remember sleeping well on those I rode in Vietnam (as well as might be expected when having to get off at 5 or 6 in the morning).

Backtrack to earlier today

Our cruise along the Yangzi River ended this morning at Yichang. From there we got on a bust that took us to the Three Gorges Dam security centre, and then on to take a look at the Three Gorges Dam. It’s very big and they have sightseeing platforms set up to take photos, but not a very comprehensive lesson in dam construction or operation, which is good because I’m not interested in that. We watched a documentary the other day on the cruise that touched on the million or so people who were displaced when the dam opened and created a reservoir that submerged whole communities upstream. These people were relocated to “immigrant towns” above the new water line, some of which I saw during the cruise. That’s interesting.

(Brief pause in writing to let phone charge, do some colouring, and have a snooze)

Backtrack to Yesterday, November 2

Yesterday we took an excursion from the cruise ship to visit the Lesser Three Gorges and then the Mini Three Gorges. These are all separate and distinct from the Three Gorges, although I could have listened better to the excursion guide to determine how and why. I’m sure it’s easily Google-able. The trip consisted of getting on to a tour boat full of Chinese tourists and travelling along the Lesser Three gorges. Everyone spent the way up the gorges in a big crowd at the front of the boat, taking photos. I chose to stay seated in the vast seating area because the crowd seemed daunting and pushy, and there were only cliffs and trees to see at about the same distance I’d been looking at the scenery from the cruise ship. (And actually, we’d had the chance to observe the first of the Three Gorges that morning from the front deck of the cruise ship, with narration by our cruise director – and it looked a lot the same.)

At about the half-way point of the Lesser Gorges tour, we got on a smaller boat to explore the Mini Gorges. This was much fewer people and closer to the water and scenery, as it was a much smaller gorge (a mini gorge is you will). I liked this part of the tour because it could see the trees and nature in more detail. Also, there were some women singing folk songs in another boat along the way, as well as a couple doing a fishing demonstration. Monkeys were briefly seen on the shore as well.

We then turned around and met up with the bigger boat again, where a fee of us tried to sit and nap while a lady yelled over a loud speaker in Chinese. Probably details about our surroundings on the tour but I didn’t find out. I managed to nap but I have a special skill.

After that, and having arrived back on the cruise ship, the tour director gave us another narration as we sailed through the Second Gorge. There are many significant peaks she told us about, and as she progressed it got dark out and the moon was there and it was nice.

Dinner was served late, at seven, so I got a bit whiney about that. It was the captain’s farewell dinner, and the vice-captain came and clinked glasses with everyone. Dinner was followed by the Crew Talent Show. I wasn’t going to to but I’m glad I did since it was mostly demonstrations of local ethnic dancing.

Flash Forward to Present.

Everyone in my compartment has settled into quiet time: journal writing, reading, games on phones, naps. I have a good compartment. It’s warm in here but there is air conditioning coming in from the ceiling trying to cool us down. I used my cashmere scarf as a blankie while I napped and was a bit too warm, but very cozy.

Edit: 6 hours into 15 hour train ride.

I have spent many hours sitting up on my bunk colouring and chatting and occasionally snacking. At one point I taught one of my tour mates some ballet and flamenco out in the very narrow corridor.

Fun fact: we’re only allowed to drink beer in our compartments as the tables in the dining car are for people eating meals. I think some of my compartment-roomies are off doing that in another compartment.

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