Sunday, 9 November 2008

put in our place by erin and sam

Our companions, from Wyoming, on the train between UB and Beijing, were Erin and Sam. Charmers though they were (hi guys!) they have seriously dented our amour propre. Our hitherto heroic (-seeming) crossing of a continent has been knocked into a corner, pipped to the post, dwarfed, cut down a peg (more idioms for you Iouna!) by their enterprise.
While we have Scrabbled, potnoodled, and gazed somnolently out of the carriage window at the passing scenery, they have been toiling through it on bicycles! They left Kazakhstan in August, and by circuitous routes aim to reach Prague by the early spring of 2010! Snookered! Buggered even.
Why are they on a train? It's apparently very troublesome crossing borders on bikes (officialdom can't cope with cyclists) and besides the Gobi is an inhospitable place at the best of times and in winter unpitying. Only a shaggy camel would survive. As it is we enjoy their company, share cakes and tales, and rejoice together in Obama's victory (they had tippled at the US Embassy in UB the night before).
The Gobi was uneventful, mostly flat with distant swells in the landscape, and quite awesome; I was glad to be watching it unfurl from behind glass. Eventually we passed into China, the military who checked our papers smiled and chatted a little in English to my great surprise, we followed sections of the Great Wall as we breakfasted, went through a series of monumental gorges to debouch into the plain of Beijing.
And here I am at the Bamboo Garden Hotel (Internet in every room) about to walk through the ornamental gardens full of gingko and fruiting persimmon, for a copious breakfast. Then perhaps the Forbidden City.


All day as I wandered around the Imperial Summer Gardens in autumn sunshine I thought about the events of 70 years ago tonight, when all over Germany hundreds of synagogues were torched and destroyed. It was a harbinger of things to come. I watched the news tonight. Plus ca change.

We delight at Obama's victory at the polls.

We are alive and well in Beijing, and are making plans to stay here longer as it is so marvellous!