still heading East
04.07.2007 - 11.07.2007 34 °C
The train was interesting to say the least ! We were on Train no 6 out of Moscow to Ulaan Batar. This particular train runs once a week and is the "Traders Train" Other than one or two westerners the train was jam packed with Mongolian traders and all their wares. Their gear was stowed everywhere (even in the ceiling panel of our cabin) Every time we aproached a station the traders would leap of the train (before it even stopped) and set out their stuff for sale, each platform was swarming with local people all out to grab a bargain !! it was amazing to watch. The traders would leave it till the very last minute before jumping back on the already moving train. After every days trading the traders just seemed to get drunk and wander arround the train! The food on the train was pretty rough and very expensive, however there were loads of women at each station with baskets of local produce to sell, which we enjoyed very much ( even the pizzas lesley bought for breakfast one morning) The most tasty were Buuz which is a sort of dumpling filled with minced lamb. washed down with ice cold Russian beer. truly a gastronomic delight !! A lot of the traders got off the train at irkusk and were replaced by western travellers, it was good to be able to speak to people who understood what we were saying! On the whole the train was an excellent experience apart from when we got to the Russian - Mongolian borders. The red tape and beaurocacy was unbeatable. We were kept waiting for a total of 9 hours to clear immigration and customs. The Russians went to town on our train searching everything and everywhere. Throughout the whole debacle they were stoney faced and very unfriendly. It was a pleasure to get to the Mongolian side to see smiley happy people.
Our arrival in U B was delayed by several hours, but we were met by a very friendly guide who whisked us off to a bath house to get showered ( five days on a train with no showers you can guess we were a tad smelly). We then had some breakfast and made introductions with the rest of the guys who were going to the ger camp. They were a great bunch of mixed nationalities most of who had bumped in to each other at some stage along the way to U.B. The Ger camp was absolutely fantastic, we could not have wished for better. We were miles from anywhere and the views were breathtaking. At night the sky was filled with stars as there was no light pollution at all. We just laid out on the steppe gazing into space. Saw satalites, shooting stars, the whole milky way as clear as anything !! The ger camp was good fun, with loads to do, There was a wrestling competition between the travellers and a mongolian guy. You could tell from early on who was going to win, however Shaun and Adam the tow Aussie guys in our group put up a good fight. One of the highlights was riding mongolian ponies out through the wilderness an unforgettable experierience. Lesley stayed back with a couple of the other girls in the group and just chilled out playing bubbles with a couple of local children and snakes and ladders with the wrestler and one of the staff. We also went to visit a nomad family. It was definitely an experience, but I found it a bit weird with a telly blaring away in the corner of the otherwise traditional Ger. Outside the ger was a satalite dish and a solar Panel ! Ancient living with a few mod cons ! We were treated to samples of local food and exchanged presents with the grandmother. In the evenings we played traditional Mongolian games and also Lesley was introduced to the grand old game of "shithead" a really good card game that you can play with loads of players.
As it was our wedding anniversary yesterday we shared a bottle of scotch with the rest of the guys and sang songs arround a campfire under the mongolian sky.
This morning we set off for the opening ceromony of the Nadaam festival, wrestling, archery,riding and chucking sheeps bones ! Unfortunately it was a swealtering day and I fell ill with a bit of heatstroke. a gallon of water and a bit of a kip soon sorted that out though.
Tommorrow we are back on the train heading for Beijing, only a short ride of about 36 hours. Really looking forward to some chinese grub (and some Tsing Tao). Hopefully we will get our photos burned onto a disc so that we can up load them in Beijing. Love to everyone and thanks for your comments so far.