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Published: August 6th 2007
Our 1 day train journey to Mongolia - Mongolia!!! - starts with the discovery that we are sharing with Europeans for the first time. Kim, the English bloke and his very lovely girlfriend Karen are spending 5 months travelling around Asia while the other guy is on his way to Tibet. Lucky Tibet. We spend a good few easy hours chatting and watching the other guy eat our food while the view from the window changes from a solid line of trees to pleasant lakes surrounded by knotty, wind-twisted bushes and spiky little hills in the distance.
Bit worried about crossing the border out of Russia due to the usual border horror stories flying around and the fact that when we got off the train at Ulan Ude the panicked Frenchman who took our bunks whispered something about 'problemes a la frontiere' then dived under a heap of blankets. This worry is helped neither by the train guard locking us into our compartment (freed by Kim after morsecoding 'help' messages through our adjoining wall) nor the other guy shouting 'hilarious' jokes about the state of the Russian army etc up and down the corridor. Despite all this it passes smoothly
View from window
What, no birch trees?! Last views of Siberia
with even a pleasant game of frisbee on the platform launched by the friendly, singing Kazakhstani yoga team who are occupying the last 3 compartments in our wagon. The crossing into Mongolia is equally smooth (big cheery Bungle-from-Rainbow style hellos and smiles from the Mongolia border guard, excellent welcome!) and 6 or so hours later we are back on the move again, listening to the melodically snoring other guy as northern Mongolia slips by softly under our feet.
Waking up as dawn breaks and rolling over to peer out the dusty window that first daylight glimpse of the land of the blue sky doesn't disappoint. Sharp curved sand dunes luxuriously stretch under a clear and cloudless turquoise heaven. I spot a distance train of camels and nearly tumble out of my bunk with excitement. Nico is already awake and standing in the corridor with the window open, lapping up every bit of it. We pass the unmistakable huddled clump of gers (yurt is the Russian word) and the occasional dark-eyed horseman gallops passed, staring from a different world. I become aware that the black spot on the sand which has been following the train is the shadow of a
massive eagle soaring just above our wagon. As the train curves I catch a romantic glimpse of the end wagons sailing through the dunes, somewhere in Mongolia.
Our approach into Ulanbaatar is announced by a storm of plastic bags and sudden proliferation of smoking factories. Soon we are tumbling off the train and onto the scorching, sunlit platform and, after the obligatory photoshoot and donning of rucksacks, we point ourselves in the direction of the city and are off. I have a really good feeling about this place 😊
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