Riding The Iron Rooster.

Nicholas Quirke was peering out on the windows of the k41 train that was taking them to Dunhuang in the early hours of 27 September 2020. While the others in the carriage slept he kept up a vigil of the dim emerging scenery till it was daylight and time for breakfast, his first on the Iron Rooster. They went to the restaurant carriage where they had the first of their super noodle packs. From experience he knew that his day was going to be one of restless endeavour, staring out of windows at some plain , some extraordinary views. This trip however, through the vast mostly industrial province of Inner Mongolia, offered little that was spectacular. He spent some time in exercise walking the length and breadth of the train, taking in the astonished looks of the travellers, travelling to the back from their 4 berth sleeper carriage he was surprised to discover that the remaining cars of which, there seemed to many, were all six bunks, were open and absolutely packed, it was quite a struggle to get to the rear and back again. His walk to the front of the locomotive was equally enlightening as the first carriage after theirs was the restaurant and the remaining were given to seating where he got an equally surprised reception. He felt self conscious but enjoyed the occasional brief chats he had with some passengers. He also made sure that he got off at the stations they stopped off at, echoing the routine of his Siberia journey. Lunch was a big tub of self heating hot pot. The highlight of the passing vista was traversing through a gloomy wasteland of derelict and flooded buildings and their brief stop at an army base and its subsequent vast Military training grounds. He loved travelling through China’s interior and seeing the landscape in this way and experiencing in close quarters the behaviours and mores of the people of the country he was living in. The brief, subtle movements, looks and words which left their impression on him. He peppered the day with eating Mochi, Mooncakes and fruit and nuts, as well as watching the heartbreaking drama of a couple and their experience of China’s damaging single child policy , ‘So Long My Son’ and the remaining episodes of the surprising and enjoyable ‘Staged’. The fellow travellers in their compartment changed on a regular basis throughout the 16 hours of consciousness, with the young couple being replaced by a man and his son, an old man, a young lady, who was with them till 21.00, when they made the most of having the carriage briefly to themselves before his sleep was disturbed by the arrival of another couple.

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