Thursday, September 17, 2009

Sept 17 - Train to Beijing and TD

I had to get up at 6:30 to get a car to the train station, but the owner of the guest house I was staying at had arranged it for us at no charge so that was very nice.

I should have known something was wrong when I didn't wake up starving like I usually do. By the time I got on the train I wasn't feeling great so I slept for almost 4 hours. When I woke up my stomach was turning and churning. I had been so happy that for 3 weeks I had been brushing my teeth with train bathroom water and drinking untreated well water in the Gobi and hadn't gotten sick. Well, that ended today - I got a raging case of TD. (TD is short for Traveler's Diarrhea.)

I will spare you the details, but I was absolutely miserable all day. I couldn't eat anything and was alternating between sweating and freezing. Luckily I had 3 very nice women in my carriage and they were taking care of me. I slept most of the day, took Imodium and pepto and started to feel marginally better. The only thing I can think of where I might have gotten it is the leftover pizza, but it was refrigerated and I warmed it up. But in retrospect, I think it might have been that the steroid shot for my sinuses lowered my immune response. (I got the TD the very next morning after getting the shot.)

At 7:45pm we reached the border and the SIX hour process began. There were of course the forms to leave Mongolia and the health declaration to enter China. But the really ridiculous, and clearly Communist regime, started when the Chinese officials started opening all the lighting and heating vents to check for contraband, and then they checked everyone's bag in each compartment. I was still feeling weak and was not in the mood for this crap, but luckily one of the women in my carriage was a tour director who had done this trip 5 years in a row and was talking to the Chinese officials and joking with them. They looked through 2 bags in our compartment and then I showed them my small backpack (having hidden my medicine bag under my pillow quickly to avoid problems). I also made sure that my bras and dirty underwear were on top of the bag, and that seemed to work pretty well.

He saw that and pretty much didn't look at anything else in my bag. Lol After that he didn't ask to look in any other of our bags either. They were asking if we had any knives and I thought, yeah like I'm going to tell you I have 2 pocket knives.

One of the women told us a story about a woman whose father was a swimsuit maker and she had him make her a bra with 3 cups, and she would put it right on top in her suitcase and officials would open it, see that bra, and slam it closed and let her go. LOL

Then there was the changing of the wheels. Russia and Mongolia use a different rail gauge than China (and almost the rest of the world) so we had to wait for literally 4+ hours while they took each rail car separately, jacked it up, took off the Russian wheels and put on the Chinese wheels. The carriages jerked so hard it would about throw you out of bed! And throughout all of this the bathrooms are locked and you are not allowed to get off the train. I had to pee so bad all I
could do was lay flat so my bladder was stretched out. My stomach was still churning and I was worried I was going to have to do something else too. :(

Finally, the wheels were changed and we went back to the station where they let us off to use the toilet in the station. At that point it was midnight and I was really ready to sleep. With the TD my sense of smell was really heightened and my stomach would churn at everything. Throughout the night I woke up a few times from strange smells. It was also very difficult to get good rest because the seats are so hard. I am ready for my own bed, that's for sure!

One of the women in my carriage was from Texas and was quite the world traveler. She had been to almost every country in the world. She was very nice, but talked and talked and talked!! Especially not feeling good, she annoyed the shit out of me! The woman who was the tour director was annoying me too. I was eating whatever sounded good (because it wasn't much) and she kept telling me not to eat this and not to drink that. Let's just say I didn't have the best day.

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