Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Arriving in Asia

9:53 p.m. Manitoba Time; Somewhere over the Sea of Okhotsk, 3 ½ hours and 1630 miles away from Beijing
Our path has followed the Pacific Rim, north along the Alaska coast, across the Bering Strait and down the coast of Russia.  Most of the time it was cloudy, though at one point I saw a dark expanse and was sure it was the ocean with a row of atolls or islands—maybe the Aleutians.  I was so excited!  Then I realised that the ocean was really part of the jet’s wing and the row of islands consisted of reflectors on the  wing. 

But finally the cloud cover broke and we could see land below.  Glorious land!  But WHAT land?  China?  Russia?  I mistook the large peninsula hanging off the north eastern edge of Russia as Korea and concluded we were over China, until the attendant informed me that this was Russia. 

The land was barren but mountainous—not like the Rockies of Alberta and BC but mountains that looked more weathered and worn—from 32000 feet up, they appeared to be bucolic hills that could be covered with sheep.  Of course, even had there been sheep, we couldn’t have seen them.  But I saw the rivers.  Even from up here they were obviously very, very wide but then again, they were about to empty into the ocean (the window we’re near is/was facing north-west—the poor souls on the other side of the cabin could probably only see endless water), so we were seeing the widest parts of them.  One in particular reminded me of the Platte River, broad and shallow, with lots of sandy flats but could that really be determined by a non-expert from this high up?  It certainly was impressive.

There wasn’t a lot of snow or ice, but down the sides of the mountains were what may have been glaciers, looking like wisps of snow caught in the soft folds of a woollen coat or unfinished rivers frozen mid-slope.  Since the rest of each mountain was bare of snow or ice, the fingers of white must have been glaciers. 

I’ve been sitting in the aisle seat because I find I can stretch out my legs more easily and I get up often to go to the washroom so this way I don’t keep disturbing anyone between me and the aisle since there isn’t anyone; Tom on the other hand was eager to sit by the window so he could look out the window.  So what happened when there was something other than clouds to see?  He was wrapped up in watching a movie and didn’t want the window shade open!  (Okay, okay, HE says it’s because we’d been asked to close the shades several hours ago to mimic night time and was afraid of disturbing the other passengers—I still say he was too wrapped up in his movie). 

Fake night time be hanged!  I wanted to look!  So I did, leaning over Tom as far as I could, oohing and aahing at each new river, each new change in land forms, wishing I had a detailed atlas to refer to so I’d know what places I was seeing.  And then the clouds closed in again and have remained so since.  According to the map and my guesstimates on where the political divisions lie, I’d say that we’re over Mongolia.  Or is Mongolia landlocked?  I can’t remember.  But I finally figured out where the REAL Korea is and we’re still a long ways away.  Harbin is 2/3rds of the distance between us and Beijing so maybe we’re still over Russia.

I’m tired.  It’s 10:30 Monday night back home and I’ve been up for nearly  20 hours but artificially-induced night notwithstanding, I haven’t been able to sleep.  I’m so accustomed to my CPAP machine that, without it, sleep is elusive.  It’s barely noon in Beijing and we’ve got ten or more hours of travel before we can lie prone.

24 hours later:
We arrived in Johor Bahru, Malaysia about 1:30 a.m. local time (13 hours later than Central Daylight Savings Time), minus our luggage.  After visiting for a bit, and settling in, we lay down and had absolutely no trouble going to sleep.  I can usually recite about half a chapter from the Bible before sleeping, once I turn out the light. Last night I didn't make it through one verse.  Tom says he thinks he didn't move at all, once asleep, he was so tired!  

Amazingly, seven hours later, I was up and ready to face the day, despite next to no sleep during our trip.  Outside it looks cloudy and windy.  Inside it is warm but quite bearable with many fans.  Our bedroom has both air-conditioning and a fan and was actually too cold!  

More later.

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