After a night of ‘on-off’ sleep, gently rocked by the movement of the train, we woke about 8 to a view of yellow and brown rocky plain, stretching for miles. Ed and walked to the dining car, 6 carriages ahead and had a breakfast of eggs, spam, bread and jam with a glass of coffee.
The morning was spent looking at the scenery, chatting to our fellow travellers and trying to ignore the numb feeling caused by the seats. It is clear now why the carriages are called hard sleepers. Returned to the restaurant car for a few games of yahtzee accompanied by a drink before we made our first stop at 1pm in a city called Lanzhou. The city is home to 1.7 million people and the number of high rise buildings was amazing. We stretched our legs and then it was back on the train. We had a quick lunch of ‘pot noodle’ and chocolate.
Our next stop was Xining (2,300m), another large city with, like Lanzhou, an incredible amount of building taking place. The city itself was again built with vast numbers of sky scrapers, each at least 3 stories tall. Here we changed engines for more powerful ones to haul us up onto the Tibetan plateau. Here I tried the local speciality of yoghurt with rice which was very tasty.
Back onto the train once more and we continued the slow climb up. We had dinner in the restaurant car which was decent enough and pretty good value at 82 yuan for two, including a beer! The air is noticeably thinner now and the oxygen points have opened in preparation. The scenery has changed and despite being higher, the landscape is much greener. We passed Qinghai Hu, the largest salt lake in China and we can also see more rugged looking mountains in the distance, with snow on the top. We have also started to see Tibetan prayer flags.
An early night again, with the necessary clambering into bunks, ready for the morning with the highest point of the rail journey at 5,068m due to be about 8.30am!