For sure it is not as hot, I think we hit 80 today max, wind out of the west at about 5mph, blue sky and puffy clouds. We leave tomorrow morning, and it is supposed to start raining. Not so bad all things considered.
Walking the dusty dirty streets of Erenhot on China/Mongolian border
Follow round the bend, about 100km due south of Ulanbaataar Mongolia
What can I say, except we are now in Mongolia and wow is it desolate. POOCHY MAGIE, you are on your own out here. Apart from plenty of water and food, along with maps and a compass……we have to bring our own rocks for our funeral Cairn!The morning began by hauling our gear, all packed and rolled tight within the confines of what is locally “Mongolian Samsonite”, which is nothing more than a Standard issue feedsack. We tied it tight with wrapping bands and lug hauled it up the stairs and over the bridge to the Main terminal.
The very ornate dining car, Pine asking in excellent French for help from fellow Francofone.
Everything just sort of fell into place once we got inside theterminal, and we had plenty of time to get boarded and underway. It seems like you climb strait out of Beijing, winding your way along the precipitous edge of A rivergorge, pa What st huts and precariuos farm plots on the mountains edge. Below, at a distance of sometimes hundreds of feet,and at other times it seems at arms reach, you have the locals existing. Existence in the very barest of terms. These hardy farmers in this rugged landscape have planted millions of trees, I have profound respect for the skills of those who farm this region. Considering what they have for equipment it is really remarkable to see.Climbing out and over that Huangshan row of mountains brings you out onto what has seemed to be a huge plateau, As we were close to the mountains it was mostly crop farming. now as we traverse a due north direction, the countryside has begun to gently roll, and farm ground has given way to a grassy expanse that touches the horizon. An edifice as to the expansive nature of God, and a reminder of mans frailty within all that has been created.The sky has been thick, flat gray with the pallor of death. We simply cant tell if we are seeing a heavy mask of air pollution, of just a flat low sky……we are jaded, we have been in Beijing too long.
Seen in Ulan first…..?
The slum streets of Ulanbaataar
Our sleeper car is rather comfortable for a 60,s era Soviet train. For an additional 35 dollars we could upgrade to a 2 man sleeper which has been a smart choice. We even have a shared shower with the couple next cabin. There is a dining car about 2 cars above us as we are arrainged on this train. The Conductor comes by and gives you a meal voucher for a certain time, and with one dinkng car it is pretty brusk and swift service that you get. Think I might take up a collection and try sending one particular waitress to CHARM school. Who would have thought that Nurse Cratshit of One Flew over the Cuckcoos Nest fame would have a Chinese half sister!!!We headed down for our appointed time for lunch but missed it by but a few moments, to which our happy waitress said ” Tsing dachou guam cho ti phat shur zum”. Which is ” suck eggs buddy yer to late”. We sure didnt make that mistake at supper time. Its community dining during meals, just neverknow who will be parked beside you. Tonight we had the pleasure of sitting with a young couple from Israel. Both just got finished with 6 years of service and were taking a break.Darom and Navila. They are headed into western Mongolia as well, but then south to Urumqui and beyond into Tibet. Nice couple, had a brief visit about travel and safety in Israel. Come visit is what I think they would tell you.
Nothing too see here folks, just another Yurt Slum
Sukbaataar, the man who gave Mongolia independance back in 1926
Its drawing onto dusknow, and the slate grey sky is beggining to recede back into the black that masters it by night. The countryside has now flattened to that of unleven bread, the grass, what there is is so short as to be nearly invisible. If someone tells you they seen grass up to a Goats belly…….then you can be sure it was a SHOT goat. The train is idling along at about 40 miles perhour, there will be a 3 hour rest stop as we reach Mongolia. The train crew needs to reguage the wheels on all cars so as to move forward onto the narrower Mongolian lines. As this same train enters Russia, it will again be reguaged to ride the Russian track widths.
Gangordugodesh or something Monestary…..sorry the travel map is packed….too lazy to go get it
Same shopping Mall, different day
OMG, OMG……ther are huge sheep shears out on the horizon….forty foot towers and 20 foot blades whirling by…sorry false alarm, just wind turbines.
So, the three hour break proved to be quite an episode. First they roll the train into a shed of sorts, then they break the train into sections ans shunt cars around. Thats a pretty rough go round. They jack all the cars up some 4 feet and remove the wheel assembly from the bottom of each car and reattach new narrower ones. Drop all the cars back in place and reattch. The new engine comes and pulls all thecars back out on to the new tracks as they are ready. The wholetrain rolls ahead about 1/2 mile and just shuts down, dead quite. So, almost all of us settled into our bunks for a nites rest. Some where around. Idnight maybe a little later there is a knock onthe cabin door PASSPORTS, PASSPORTS. We hand them over when the door opens………..nothing……….nothing………nothing, heck I am going back to sleep. Maybe another hour rolls by, knock,knock……..a Lady Officer steps in, bruskly asking about stuff in a language you dont understand and she is constantly trying to turn the lights on. Our cabin seemed to have a new switch designed by Pen&Teller, as it seems you had to turn around 3 times ccw to make it turn on, and hop on one foot to get it to turn off……..didnt seem to us that she knew her way around trains that well, she didn,t know any of these really common train tricks. What is in here, open it up, show me dat, lift this up, who ishe, why are you in Mongolia, where is dat bicycle. Yeah, its pleasant. She is gone, lets get back to sleep and Pine and I are out.I am up first, Pine is still slack jawed and slobbering. Down the hall to the Loo, and do the morning thing, brush my teeth that sort of thing. Man I hate it when the toilet seat hits me in the back of the head when I am getting a drink.
Pine, doing a little people watching
Its a gorgeous azure sky, with cotton ball clouds chasing each other across the Mongolian sky. We are now approx 200km south of Ulan, and the grass has really improved, plus we areseeing running water which makes us feel better. We arrived in Ulan at about 2.30pm, its a dusty dirty place with plenty of slum edge to make up for a lack of downtown.now getting the bikes away from the train was a real episode, of which Pine took care of all of it while I watched our gear. 3.5 hours later, and paying an import fee of approx. 60 cents to get the bikes out. Plenty of paper work, Pine even had to make up his own declaration form on a paper napkin to turn around and hand back in. Then walk back to other end of train yard to do more paper work.Bottom line, we got them and they are functioning.
Always watching you Mike Wozousky.
We loaded the bikes and rode to our White House Hotel. These Mongolians, they drive fast and rude let me tell you, pretty scary on these streets. We shopped for some groceries tonight, then took a awalk about to say we have seen some of Ulan. We dined on some great Doner Kebabs tonight instead of noodles again. George my German friend, the Doners were great……I am still going to start one of these when I get home.Okay, we have transpired one more day in UB as the locals call it. We walked a plenty today, and I am dogged. We made the finding of alchohol our first job, buying 1oz bottles and pouring into a water bottle, now we have to use it with a little care. Next was a knee brace, not one to be found anywhere in this town. From that we headed for an English book store, Pine needed more books. I also bought one to read, not to much text but lots of places to color in. There is a world famous Blck Market Bazzar here…….more crap than 1 canshake a stick at. Strike that bit of advice off the Lonely Planet must do list. Then we heaed up to the Ghandantegchenling Monestary……….ah. Okay you need to remember we are in Mongolia…….they could maybe mow a little grass and pull a few weeds……put out a few trash cans. Huge building with the usual ornate gable ends and roofs, the rest painted white in 1945. Pay at the door, the guy only stops those who do not look Mongolian , kid ya not , Pine walked right in the little Mongol…..I got nipped.
Once inside, wait a good 10 minutes to let you eyes adjust to the very dim light. Center is a Budda done in gold leaf off Swiss chocolates, its huge, I am lying about the chocolate wrappers. The entire wall area is line with floor to cieling shelves holding sort of Budda dolls in gold capse with tiny fur hats. The same area as it faces Budda is lined with 3 rowa of huge Prayer wheels all made of brass. These folks are the prayer wheel spinninest folks ever….Pine and I figger each brass wheel should be loaded with the makings for ice cream, by noon you would enough fresh ice cream to make a fortune.We headed to the Doner Shop again. But this time we visited with the fellow who owns it, from Colomb Geremany. Real nice guy, he is the head chef down at the Kempinski Hotel, and owns the Doner shop on the side. We learned alot about UB in our visit with him.
10 days road rations layed out. that and enough water to go duck hunting in.