Image provided by Hanno Mackowitz
There are some great train journeys out there and some truly fantastic adventures to be had on trains. Most such trips are one or the other, with the rare exception being both. All told each continent may hold at best one such opportunity for travel and adventure – a testament to the rarity that is a truly epic rail journey.
Asia has the Trans-Siberian from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok, Russia; South America the Old Patagonia Express from Esquel to El Maiten, Argentina; North America the Trans-Canada Rail from Toronto to Vancouver, Canada; Australia the Indian Pacific Rail from Sydney to Perth, Australia; and Europe has the Orient Express from London, England to Istanbul, Turkey. These are by no means the definitive journeys of each continent but an illustration of how each holds the possibility of a truly great adventure on the rails.
Various rail networks span the globe connecting countries and continents. Not all though are as integrated as the ones in Europe. Africa, for instance, lacks a continual trans-continental rail line; instead it has a limited link with individual countries or regions being the extent to which one can transverse the area by train.
Asia’s network is vast and extensive but not all of the countries are connected. Currently one can travel all the way from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam to Helsinki, Finland. A fantastic undertaking on its own, taking one from Vietnam, through China and possibly Mongolia to Russia and finally into Scandinavia. Soon it’ll get even better, as Cambodia is in the midst of rehabilitating their railroads.
This means that hopefully by 2015 Cambodia will have a link to both Bangkok and Hanoi, offering one the chance to travel solely by train from Singapore, up through Malaysia and into Thailand and down around the Gulf of Thailand into Cambodia. Passing through Phnom Penh, one could then continue on the way to Ho Chi Minh City, before starting up the coast to Hanoi and then on into China where one could even travel to Tibet and not merely Shanghai or Beijing.
From there it’s on to the Trans-Siberian and Russia followed by Europe and all its adventures, until one ultimately reaches Spain. Where, of course, the possibility of taking a ferry does exist over to Morocco. There it’s then possible to take the limited but still exciting rail lines connecting North Africa.
This previously impossible journey would take one by three oceans – the Indian, Pacific and Atlantic; countless seas including the Andaman Sea, South & China Seas, Sea of Japan, Sea of Ochotsk, Bering Sea, Caspian Sea, Black Sea, Adriatic Sea, Mediterranean Sea, Baltic Sea and more. Not to mention countless other bodies of water including the Mekong, Lake Baikal, the Volga River, the Yangtze River, the Danube, the Reine and the Seine.
All of this could be seen without leaving a train, but with some planning and variance in routes. One could quite literally spend a lifetime riding the rails of Eurasia and never manage to see everything that’s on offer.