Back on the train, gang.
09 Jul 1998 09:29:00 -0700
Beijing->Xian -- China :: WE 08 JUN 98
Lets see, in addition to pedalling a few thousand kilometers,
I've traversed Chinese countryside in planes, trains and automobiles.
Although China does offer the possibility to add ox or mule cart to the
list of potential modes of transportation, the only real option left would
be trekking. For example, I met this Spaniard named Juan a while back
who'd traversed China's Great Wall from east to west, much of the 5,000
kilometer distance on foot.
I'm not likely to take any grand walking treks on this trip.
For one, I'm not equipped for it. For two, I'm just plain too lazy, especially
since the next-best mode of transportation is available: bicycle. But
if by bike and on foot are the best methods for discovering a country,
the train remains the most magical. More comfortable than buses and planes
(and bikes on rainy days like today), there's the freedom to stretch your
legs, to stand at the window if you like as the countryside rolls by,
paced by the chanting clackity-clack. Trains relax me.
I'm on an overnight train connecting Beijing and Xian. Night
trains, not my favourite; so much countryside flitters by in the darkness.
Last night the sun set in a fiery orange glow behind the mountains as
we traversed the western edge of China's great eastern plain. This morning
I awoke into the heart of a Loess Plateau valley, its trademark yellow
soil and hobbit houses dug into the terraced hillsides. This landscape
provides the Yellow River with its colour, easy to see today as the rain-soaked
land runs in yellow rivulets toward the valley floor.
Every year the plateau erodes into the river which holds the
silt on its falling, falling trajectory through the valleys before slowing,
slowing as it traverses the eastern plains. Across the plains, dikes confine
the muddy yellow river's annual tide, and confine the settling silt to
a narrow channel. Over the centuries the dikes have been built higher
and higher as the channel filled deeper and deeper with eroded earth.
Now the Yellow River runs across the plains like an elevated highway several
meters above the plain. I haven't yet seen this aspect of the yellow river,
but it's easy to imagine as my train glides down into the stout, steep-sided
valley which feeds some minor Yellow River tributary with hundreds of
cubic meters of muddy rainfall.
Even under flat grey skies casting morning's flat grey light
this landscape remains amongst the prettiest of China's offerings this
trip. The small terraced plots imply a loving, personal devotion. Small,
pretty, well-kept farmer's villages suggest a prosperity not of wealth
but of contentment.
~~~ Responses Appreciated ~~~
The heavy is the root of the light.
The unmoved is the source of all movement.
Thus the Master travels all day
without leaving home.
However splendid the views,
she stays serenely in herself.
Why should the lord of the country
flit about like a fool?
If you let yourself be blown to and fro,
you lose touch with your root.
If you let restlessness move you,
you lose touch with who you are.