When I was in school, I was fascinated by the tale of the Tibetan plateau formed by the two great mountain ranges – the Himalayas in the south and the Kunfun mountains in the north. The plateau has an average height of 12,000 to 16,000 feet above sea level and is aptly called the roof of the world. I could never have imagined that one day I would have the chance to cross it in a comfortable, air-conditioned train. That day came when FRIENDS received the invitation from the Chinese Peoples’ Association for Peace and Development (CPAPD) to visit China.
We requested a visit to Tibet and travel on the new Qinghai-Tibet railway. Our request was granted. Thus, at the head of a delegation of five members, I arrived in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, on August 8, 2006.
Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, is located at a height of 12,000 feet above sea level and is the center of Tibetan Buddhism, with ancient buildings, temples and palaces. The snowmelt from the mountains forms a large wetland, from which the Brahmaputra River originates. China needs this water to irrigate vast tracts of land, and if it diverts it, the Brahmaputra River will dry up. Lhasa has undergone considerable development, extending both horizontally and vertically. We stayed there for three days to visit various places, such as Jokhang Temple, Potala Palace and Norbulingka Complex. Jokhang Temple is the spiritual center of Buddhism, built in 647 AD by the Hans. The Potala Palace is located in the heart of Lhasa. It remained the residence of their spiritual leaders until 1959, when the Dalai Lama moved to India. Today it has been turned into a national museum and is a renowned tourist resort. Norbulingka is an impressive and complex building surrounded by beautiful parks and gardens.
The railway built across the Tibetan plateau is an engineering marvel. It took several years to build it in 1984 and over two decades to declare it open on July 1, 2006. We arrived on August 8, 2006. Our delegation was the first authorized to travel on this route. Our memorable train journey therefore began on the fourth day at 9 a.m. The train was fully air conditioned, equipped with an oxygen lifeline, televisions and a dining car, just like our Tezgam Express from the 1960s.
The next day, we left Xining and reached Beijing. The whole trip was a dream come true, adventurous and eventful. There is no doubt that the Pak-China friendship is just as strong and stable as the Qinghai-Tibet railway project.
The Qinghai-Tibet Railways are a great feat of engineering, zigzagging along tracks carved into the mountains through tunnels as high as 16,000 feet, built through ice and frozen rocks, negotiating sharp bends. dangerous. Sometimes the train crosses valleys, where the parallel road and the river offer a beautiful view.
The train continuously climbs to a greater height, over 16,000 feet where it stops, at Tanggula Station (16,627 feet) allowing passengers to enjoy dizzying heights and freezing winds. As night falls, the train begins to descend and at dawn, after traveling a distance of about 1,950 kilometers, covered in about 23 hours, it reaches the city of Xining at 7,000 feet, which is the capital. from Qinghai Province. It has a population of around ten million, of which 50 percent are Muslims. The city is a garrison for thousands of soldiers and police to maintain order in the far western region of China.
Near Xining Station, there is a large sparkling freshwater lake, under the rising sun. We went straight to the lakeside restaurant where the staff greeted us with the salute: Assalam-o-Alaikum. We were served breakfast, with fish from the lake which was as delicious as our Indus trout fish. The people along the route are thin and wait for life to flourish with the development and exploitation of resources, with Chinese ingenuity and their indefatigable and intimidating courage.
The next day, we left Xining and reached Beijing. The whole trip was a dream come true, adventurous and eventful. There is no doubt that the Pak-China friendship is just as strong and stable as the Qinghai-Tibet Railway Project, which can rightly be called the Eighth Wonder of the World.