|It’s Tuesday evening and I’m currently in Black Dragon Pool Area with a my lovely group trekking the Great Wall of China for Pancreatic Cancer…. It’s been a few days since I last wrote as it’s been all go!
Last time I was writing my journal I had just had my wits scared out of me by Russian immigration at the point of LEAVING the country…. Sitting in anticipation as to what was to come as we crossed the border into China.
We arrived in Man’chzhuriya at about (confirm time) pm, moving through the two competing border arches on the Russian and Chinese side of the border…. There’s a good 10 mins on the train between the two arches where you genuinely are in ‘no mans land’. On arrival we were still sitting in darkness, my provinsta had even come into my room to switch off my reading light so it was completely dark other than the light from my kindle. (I’m not sure whether it was actually necessary to turn off the reading light or whether she was continuing to be her normal ‘friendly’ self). About 15 minutes after arriving all the lights went on and a border control representative came in, checking my bags (in a slightly half-hearted fashion…) he continued on his way… darkness… Another 15 – 20 mins and the lights turned on again, the immigration officer. I had been told to always stand for immigration officers and show complete respect, which I did. Ultimately this lady was going to decide if I was going to make it into China tonight. A beaming smiley lady appeared and said ‘Welcome to China’, a look over my visa, immigration card and passport photo, she wished me well and went on her way. It couldn’t have been more different to Russia…. I way already pleased to be there!
The other provinsta appeared not long after and started gestering to me to remoive my bag from the other bed / seat in my cabin… not one had used that up to now so I wasn’t sure why. She then stripped the bed (despite no one having slept in it) and bought new bedding in. I was all a bit confused by this until Sarah appeared in my cabin…. She had been told she was moving in with me for the night! I was more than happy to have the company as we had another 4.5hour wait until the train was going to leave the station, but it seemed a bit strange given there were so few people on the train.
By this point I was desperate for the loo and all the toilets on the train were locked until it started moving again …. I went to the provinsta who indicated I could get off the train (with a bit of a ‘good luck’ look on her face…. Brilliant. Not having any Manderin other then ‘Hello’ and ‘thank you’ I went on search for a toilet. It soon became clear that leaving the station would actually result in me not being allowed back in again so I narrowly missed that disaster. I could see a waiting room but wasn’t able to get into it and other than that just some huge brown doors that didn’t look particularl inviting. After a bit of creative acting to the scary security guard (imagine that how you wish…) he did direct me through the scary brown doors where I was able to find a toilet. I also bumped into the lovely Finnish couple from earlier that day who indicated we could buy food and beer upstairs in a little pop up shop so I went back to grab Sarah.
When we were in the shop we found Gabrielle and asked him to join us for beer and cards in my cabin as we had a long wait ahead. He popped back to his cabin and then headed down only to be told (extremely rudely) by my host that he wasn’t allowed in…. she even shouted at me when I went down to speak to her – we were literally like naughty school children to her. There was no logic in her decision either as the train was going to be stationary for another 4 hours so he was going to be on his on in his cabin.
After a few tried we gave up and he went back. Sarah and I enjoyed a couple of beers and a chat before needing the toilet again…. Heading out of the cabin our provinstas were nowhere to be found, the carriage was in darkness and the doors locked. We wandered down the train only to find they had made Sarah’s orginal coach their party coach and were drinking beer and chatting in there…. Someone double standards since Gabrielle wasn’t allowed with us!
A quick toilet stop and a movie later the train started going on its way. As soon as it started moving I went to annoy the ladies int eh coach one more time (they had wound me up a bit this evening!) to get them out of bed and open the toilet for us! We then headed off for a good night sleep.
China was a complete contrast to travelling through Russia. Waking on Friday morning we were faced with complete smog…. We weren’t sure whether it was fog or smog but we were reliably told it was pollution. Miles upon miles or high rise apartment blocks with more being built it was just incredible.
We only had one stop during the day on Friday at which point we met back up with Gabrielle and the Finnish couple and agreed to head to the restaurant car for some Chinese food and cards. Both things we achieved successfully and ended up in there enjoying Chinese beer from 1pm – 6.30pm at which point we decided to head back to our cabins and prep for the early morning ahead. We packed up all our things and headed to bed at about 9.30am, aware of our 4.30am wake up call.
Both Sarah and I slept really badly on the last night, I think mainly because we were aware of the wake up, but we also knew we had a full day of R&R at nice hotels when we arrived in the city as we had both had the same thought process of a shower, cocktail and comfy bed after 7 nights on a train and before we both joined our respective tour groups.