train to Mongolia

Another 2 day train!  Boy, I’m excited (not).  I’m growing weary of trains…  However, right off the bat, this train ride seemed that it would be fun.  My room-mate, Yuri, was nice and invited me and an Australian couple to sit down for cake and coffee.  It would turn out to be another super 2 day friendship.  The Australian couple, Tom & Iris are also on the Trans-Siberian railroad.  They bought a package deal that includes all hotels and pickups from the train station.  Their trip seemed to be quite hassle free…  Yuri was on a business trip to China.  He goes once or twice a month to work out shipping details.  He exports 3,000 metric tons a month of silicates and aluminum ore to China.  His phone never stopped ringing for 2 days.  He seems to be quite successful; he showed me photos of his vacations in Crete, Greece, Russia, and Italy, posing with his beautiful girlfriend.

As we rolled east and south from Lake Baikal, the landscape changed dramatically.  We gained in elevation and the flat farmland changed into rolling hills with  trees and the landscape looked more akin to what I always thought the Mongolian Nomads would ride across on their horses.

One by one, the small towns rolled by, again reminding me how big Asia is…

For a good 1/2 hour, we rolled along the bank of what looked like a massive lake.  We were surprised to look on the map and see that it was only a river, bulging and wide…

After we gained a little more elevation, I noticed that the rivers were already partially frozen.  Even though we were heading south, everyone tells me that Mongolia is no warmer than Siberia.  I look at my shoes and realize that I’d better go winter clothes shopping…

When we finally arrive at the Russian/Mongolian border, I find out that there is a 6 hour “layover,” that includes customs and immigration checks (for both countries), drug and contraband sweeps, and train changeovers.  Specifically, our passenger car is disconnected from the Russian locomotive and connected to a Mongolian locomotive.


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