A trip to World’s Rooftop !

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Tibet with its formidable mountain ranges which makes even motoring almost impossible is aptly titled as the ‘roof of the world’. In such a place where lofty inaccessible mountains and risky permafrost soil consist most of the landscape can anyone imagine a rail route that connects it to the mainland china? That’s the Qinghai-Tibet Railway the miracle project of the people’s republic of china.

What makes the Quinhai-Tibet railway stand out among other railway lines all over the world is, it’s constructed across terrains where none can dream about transportation – about 17,000 feet tall mountains to climb, tens of kilometre-wide valleys, five hundreds of kilometres of unstable permafrost soil, etc! No wonder this is considered as China’s most costly rail-project till date, and arguable the most costliest of its kind in the world.

Starting from china’s capital city Beijing, the highlight of this train journey is the passing through the astounding Kunlun Mountain Range (the ‘Mother of Thousands of Mountains’) that virtually isolate Tibet from the rest of the world.

Most of this region is dubbed as the ‘Forbidden Zone’ or the zone-of-death as its unpredictable weather… where the average temperature is minus zero, fierce sandstorms and high UV radiation, make living impossible! Here the average altitude of rail track is 13,500 feet above sea level, with the highest point at 16,700 feet – the most elevated rail track in the world!

But for the passengers the incredibly high altitude won’t pose any problems as all the train carriages are fully air-conditioned and pressurised, plus, oxygen masks are available in sleeping cabins as well as all the train corridors and washrooms. With lavish facilities including western / continental cuisines, it’s more like an Aeroplane ride for the travellers.

More than three-fourth of the entire Qinghai-Tibet Railway is thru this majestic mountain range that includes the ‘Tanggula Pass’ (about 16,640 feet / 5072 metres above sea level) – the world’s highest rail track, and the ‘Fenghuoshan tunnel’ – world’s highest rail tunnel.

Even the highly unstable permafrost is well taken care of … the Qingshuihe Bridge, that extends over eleven & half kilometers, is the world’s longest bridge built on permafrost.

To protect Tibet’s fragile, sensitive eco-system that accounts for many rare & endangered flora & fauna, the railway track is aptly elevated at many spots… otherwise, it utilizes fencing and tunnels cut under the tracks; so that the natural wildlife continues, practically unperturbed by the moving train.

Most importantly, the train is equipped with garbage compacters and vacuum toilets, so that no garbage is allowed to be left behind… to protect the unspoilt natural environment.

Covering almost two thousand kilometers, the Qinghai-Tibet Railway opens up to the visitors the undiscovered bewitching beauty if Tibet.

When the climax comes – the final destination of the train – “Lhasa”, it is more like ‘exploring the unexplored’ for the passengers !

This praiseworthy railway project has now thrown up new avenues for exploring the pristine Tibet for the foreign tourists and people from mainland China alike. A trip to world’s rooftop in every sense !!!



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Info Courtesy:  E Cheong, New Huaren Federation

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