Thursday, June 02, 2011

30 April: Trans-Mongolian Train (Goncharovo to Sukhbaatar)

Didn't sleep very well last night. More just dozed on and off. I suspect it's down to our life of doing nothing and dozing thruout the day. Either way, I was vaguely aware of the noises at our Irkutsk stop, but I didn't get up till about 05h30.

Ah, what a divine surprise awaited us! The world is covered in a thick white blanket of snow :) Suddenly the view was a huge novelty again. In fact, the view changed more today than in the last few days altogether.

And on top of the novelty of the snow, we went thru 2 tunnels (didn't get a photo tho because I ran out of battery and the 48V plug-points in our carriage are pretty useless!). It was a long wait for the restaurant carriage (still on Moscow time) to open up! But I did manage to get a few good shots of Lake Baikal as we went past.

And then it was back to bed for more dozing. It was kinda nice having a morning of winter train travel but, soon they'd cranked the heat up to an unbearable level and I was standing next to the open window for some fresh air. I never understand why people would make somewhere hotter than necessary. It's so much easier to get warmer, but not so easy to cool down!

We stopped at Ulan-Ude and after that I went to charge my camera battery in the Restaurant Carriage and have some Borscht. Have I mentioned how lovely Russian graveyards are to see as we pass by on the train. Sadly I haven't managed to get a decent photo. I think the most gorgeous one I saw was the one covered in snow this morning.

We rode past Goose Lake which was almost frozen over. It's nice to have seen more life around today, more people and animals out and about. Their dark wooden houses remind me of Gum's cottage.

Now we've stopped at Naushki, the Russian-Mongolian border town and we're waiting to get our passports back. Unfortunately there are no food shops at this station and not even people trying to exchange our money. Was hoping to get some Mongolian currency for my collection on this trip.

Oh, and we've been given 2 identical customs forms to complete, but they're entirely in Russian! It is surreal considering the Chinese (I think?) conductors seem to speak no English or Russian either. We're just lucky to have an American on our carriage who knows Russian. Well, wait ... wait ... wait.

Showee, the Russian border process is tedious! They must've traipsed at least 15 individuals and 3 dogs thru out carriage before we got out passports back.

And then we hung out longer at the station (just for fun?).

And eventually we got to the Mongolian side of the border crossing. They seemed slightly more efficient than their Russian counterparts but did re-check our entire cabin. I was kinda impressed cause the Mongolians were the only ones in my memory to actually try comparing me to my photo in my passport.

Plus, their immigration form has an English version. And we had a friendly Mongolian guy come on board to change out money. Yay, I got a variety of Mongolian notes for my collection :) *thrilled* Haha, he couldn't believe I was African because I wasn't black :P

We've just had about 20 official looking Mongolians walk thru our carriage. Sigh. And we get to do this all again tomorrow evening.

At the moment I'm just feeling kinda peckish (thought there'd be something to buy at our lengthy Russian border stop and the Mongolian Restaurant Carriage only joins us in Ulan Bator) and in desperate need of the loo! The lock the carriage toilets at all the station-stops and this time they've been locked since we got to the Russian border town, 6hrs ago!

1 comment:

Tamara said...

I find it's easier to cool down than to warm up. I am cold-blooded.

Snow - so cool! And being able to say you've actually seen Lake Baikal! It fascinates me - watched a doccie on all the strange things that live in it.

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