Beijing to Xian - when train travel loses its romance

As you recall in episode 1, your raconteur found herself stranded on the top bunk of a miniscule train compartment on an overnight train from Beijing to Xian.

Below her the spouse lay in the dark attempting sleep. Across the narrowest of aisles, lay two travel acquaintances, a man and woman of unusual height, who struggled to rest, folded into yoga-like contortions entirely inappropriate for sleep. I assume their breathing patterns were appropriate to get them through the night as both survived. (Unfortunately, later in the trip, the man took seriously ill and found himself in a Chinese ICU. He recovered.)

I lay there, willing myself to sleep, terrified of needing a wee. Through the flimsy compartment door, a French woman wailed and cried as she tossed and turned and was unwittingly stumbled over by night whizzers en route to the loo.

The man across snored soberly. I frowned, but smiled a silent grin, knowing that when I finally wended my way to slumber, he would pay. I can outsnore a chainsaw on a good night.

Though I could swear I hadn't slept a wink, suddenly I found myself awake. I cracked the window shade and yes, dawn was eking its way across a shimmering green landscape.

My bladder notified my brain it was time to be emptied. I sat up, bumping my head on the ceiling and realised there was no way to get down. That woman who required assistance from two men to hoist herself onto that upper berth was not prepared to jump six feet to the floor, especially not on a moving train.

But I probably could manage to get my feet on the table... I flipped over and eased myself down. My feet reached the table, and as my weight came to rest, it tilted just enough to send me zooming, feet first into the lower bunk, bouncing back as I landed to catch the table's edge square in the back, my head flopping.

I suppressed a scream and settled for a gasp. No, I was pretty sure I didn't have whiplash. I slipped into the disposable slippers that Eric our guide had included with our food packets and entered the corridor.

The French woman had passed out sometime during the night. She lay sprawled out, uncovered in her jammies. I resisted the urge to fix her blanket and made my way to the loo.

[after a major clean-up!][

Jesus, Mary and all the saints preserve us! Nothing prepares you for the sight and smell of a toilet that has been used by fifty men in the middle of the night, men whose aim is undoubtedly poor in the comfort of their facilities at home.

Add the rocking of the train, untold bottles of tepid Chinese beer and the disorientation of travel and it looked as if there had been some kind of contest going on all night.

Who could reach highest, farthest, coat the seat, piss in the sink, on the sink? Even the mirror??? The male of the species has a lot to answer for.

But there I was, with a full bladder and nowhere else to go. I'll spare you the details for now, but squatting in such a way as to prevent any part of my body to come into contact with any surface was a yogic miracle.

Using a wad of toilet paper (which I had, of course, brought with me!) I opened the door to leave and found a queue had formed, fronted by the French woman. I scurried down the corridor to my compartment as her piercing shriek bolted through the air...

Join us next time, friends, for the next episode of All My Trains...

...telling tales from around the world

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