Crossing Mongolia


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Asia » Mongolia » Ulaanbaatar
August 1st 2004
Published: October 19th 2007
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By the time we woke up the train was rolling to the stop in Ulaanbaatar - the Mongolian capital city. It was an interesting view. Normal, tall buildings are standing next to the typical 'gers'. 'Ger' is a round tent that allows the Mongolians to move around and be, well, nomads. Even in the capital city. The coolest thing I ever saw. Can't imagine myself setting up a tent back at home in the middle of any city...

We left Ulaanbaatar shortly after and the scenary changed. Very different from Siberia. Little hills spread in front of the trains and there are no trees. No wonder they live in 'gers'. That was pretty much the scenery for the rest of the day. We liked it a lot. It is amazing how many different kinds of natural environments one gets to see in one trip. And it was going to get just more and more desertic. Less green and more sand... Until we entered the Gobi Desert. Then it was only sand. Again - the best entertainment was watching through the window and observe the scenery change. We saw horses running around, lots of ponnies, cows... At certain point even wild camels. We saw quite some isolated gers, litteraly in the middle of nowhere.

In the Gobi desert it was, well, warm. And deserted. And more than once a thought came to my mind of how I really hope that the train doesn't break down here... 😊 Around 9pm we arrived to the other Mongolian border, which we crossed swiftly. By swiftly I mean in an hour or little more. But hey - in this part of the world, that is fast. 😊

But it was on the Chineese border that it got really interesting. Despite the late hour - we had to stay up. The wheels on the train had to be changed. Basically, Mongolia and Russia have the train gauges' width different than the rest of the world. This means - that the span between the weels is different than the width of chineese tracks. So - the most 'convenient' solution appears to be the following: unscrew the wheels, lift the train, push in new wheels, screw them on and - yeah - the train can move on. An operation that took several hours on a 24 or so vagon train... But - it was really interesting to watch the whole thing from the train itself!

The whole thing happend in some kind of huge mechanical shed. The train moved in and slowly unhooked every single vagon by moving back and forth. Now that each vagon was standing by itself in its designated place the Chinese men and women, btw dressed really neatly, unscrewed the wheels. Then they pushed a button on a nearby standing post. The vagon lifted slowly to maybe a 1.50m to 2m from the ground. Other workes came and pushed away the wheels that were still on the tracks, and yet another group of people pushed in some more weels under the vagons. The vagons self came down again and the wheels were screwed on again. Now, it sounds short - but it probably took over a couple of hours... after that, all vagons recomposed the train, and we moved on into China.


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Our train...Our train...
Our train...

...rolling down Mongolian landscape...


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