200 KM / day

Trip Start Jan 01, 2006
1
45
55
Trip End Jun 30, 2006


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Monday, May 15, 2006

OMG - We're in Siberia - cool eh ;-)

If you want more info on Mongolia try this website. http://www.mongolgobi.mn/.

It took 30 hours to travel 1100 KM from Beijing China to Ulaanbaatar (UB) Mongolia. At an average slow of 36.6 km/hr. Most of this time was taken up at the China / Mongolia border changing wheels and through customs and immigration for the two countries. I thought this would give me an understanding of what was to come at the Mongolia / Russian border - I was wrong.

I've written the following as we traveled. There was plenty of time to write.

Boarded Train 1740
Getting on the train was simple. None of the security or ticket checking of China. We arrived to find our bunkmates are a Russian / Asia couple who were fun - but spoke no English (see photo). The women (who is 43 like me) is our bunk mom. She looks after us by making our beds and helping get settled. She has a sweet tooth and loved sharing our candy and our Scotch. Of course they subtly slipped a few items on our side of the bunk too "help" with customs.

We enjoyed a 2 liter bottle of Scotch with our bunk mates, a polish couple and a girl from Hong Kong. We enjoyed a good nights sleep - thanks in no small part to the Scotch.

Mongolia Customs 0430
We arrived at the Russian border at 0430 but waited until 1000 for Mongolian customs to come to board. It is popular is communist countries (old or current) to check who is on the train and only allow those out of the country that they approve of.

It was funny to see our little car all along, no engine, no other cars. See photo of our little car "all by itself".

I guess I forgot some details - the staff was hiding goods all over too sneak by customs. Not drugs - but booze and clothing to save on duties.

Russian Customs 1200
Russian customs and passport control entered our car after it was moved across the border. The process took about 2 hrs.

They moved through the cabin efficiently, on of there staff spoke pretty good English and helped us fill in the forms (in Russian) - - - then the fun began!

As I mentioned the staff hid stuff in the cabin. The customs staff knew this and looked for it. In our little cab a guy without at bunk tried to move in with a bag full of goods. I tossed him and his 2 bags out and shut the door. It's good to be 6'4" sometimes. More about this under "drunk Mongolian" latter in the blog.

The Russians took off a cart full of goods. After the guards left the staff moved through the cabin picking up stashes of Vodka, towels etc that the guards missed - all just a game I guess.

It is now 1516 - we're still waiting for a engine and the rest of the train. I must say you get pretty tired of sitting in a train car all day - or am I just complaining.

Zoom Zoom - 1630
Yahoo - we're cruising our way through Russia. The country is pretty poor looking (see picture). It is very dry, the houses are run-down and the factories are either "rubble" or without any activity. During WWII the Russians moved the factories out here so the Germans couldn't bomb them. With the factories came lots of people to work in them. After the war the factories slowly moved back to central Russia leaving the old factories broken and the people without work. Of course some factories clung on until the collaps of communisim in the early 1990s.

Drunk Mongolian
Remember the guy I physically removed from our berth. Well he didn't like me very much for doing that. He was very drunk by the end of the day and was becoming very angry at me. In the dinning car he kept pointing at me and trying to say things (too drunk for real words to come out). I went over to his friend and motioned to him to keep is friend under control. After about 10 minutes of him trying to pick a fight that he would have lost due to my back up of Veronica, the Waitress, the cook etc security took him back to his bunk. That was the end of our trouble with him - but security had to return him a couple of times.

At about 2100 our bunkmates got off and Veronica and I had a bunk to ourselves. Before we went to bed we had nightcap with our neighbours from Poland, Hong Kong and the two security staff we met earlier in the day thanks to the Drunk Mongolian.

Irkursk Siberia
After 36 hours we had traveled 440 KM and arrived in Siberia safe and sound. A blistering 12 km / hour made the previous journey seem rather fast. I'm sure our speed will pick up between here and Moscow as we don't have to change wheels and cross borders.

After freshing up we went for a coffee next to the hotel and a very cool coffee shop. Some guests came in after us and started talking to Veronica. They're locals to Irkursk and were in Ottawa two weeks ago fining retail space for a shoe store they are opening (they have 500 world wide). When we get back we'll have to check it out at the Rideau Center when it opens in August.

We're a bit tired from the train ride!!!

Take care,

D&V
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