Friday, November 30, 2012

Chengdu to Lhasa, Tibet

Sunrise on the train to Tibet.
Frozen shore of a lake in Tibet, didn't catch the name and can't find it on the map.
From a Colorado middle school, bought in Mongolia and read on the train to Tibet. But is it better than the movie?

Just in case.... the last 12hrs of the train is all above 10,000ft
In our awesome hotel room, post train, pre showers. 

We made it to Lhasa, Tibet this afternoon after a 44hr train from Chengdu. The train was the cleanest train we had been on in China, apparently doesn't even dump their sewage onto the tracks! (most of trains so far have, so, don't walk on the train tracks in Russia or China, just fyi).

The Chinese are obviously pretty proud of the Lhasa train, there were a series of special announcements about it made on board. They told us about going through the highest railroad pass at 5072m (16,640 ft), about how they can keep the permafrost from turning boggy in the summer, and about their environmental preservation. There are a lot of announcements on Chinese trains (from early morning until bedtime, hours of announcements, what are they saying?!?) but this was the first time anything has been in English.

After bedtime, but before lights out, a woman came in to my compartment to ask if I was a doctor (2 foreigners on the train, it was worth a shot I guess). I said I was a nurse and she said "lady sick". I got dressed and followed her down the car. The woman had some trouble breathing, but no nausea or pain at all. We had just recently crossed above 3000m so it was likely the altitude. The train medic arrived,  and after a quick assessment came to the same conclusion. He gave her some tiny little grains from a tiny little bottle (if you've ever taking traditional Chinese medicines you know the kind I'm talking about). It is still hard for me to think of traditional Chinese medications as rescue or emergency meds. I realize that is an arrogant western medical view.

I was worried about altitude sickness here. I had shortness of breath, headaches and nausea in La Paz, Bolivia last August, while taking a variety of western meds (and despite many cups of coca tea). In Chengdu, we couldn't find Diamox in Chinese pharmacies, and instead are taking Hong jing tian (rhodiola). So far we are feeling good.

Tonight we were told to take it easy, to speed acclimatization and avoid altitude sickness. I did have noodles with yak meat though. It was chewy.

- Bree