World ARDF Tour 2001 Part 15

Bruce’s Report #15

Well here’s a quick one, since I’m composing this online….

I’m in an internet Cafe in downtown UlaanBaatar. We arrived here only a short time ago on the train from Beijing. A very interesting train trip !

We left Beijing early on Tuesday morning, the only drama being the passport number on Bryan’s train ticket didn’t in fact match his actual passport number. The railways were no help at all and had no interest in being of any help, so we had no option but to risk it. It didn’t matter afterall because the guard took all the tickets just after we boarded.

The Train CabinThe TrainRussian Hot Water Urn
Travelling for 32 hoursInteresting GulliesChinese Border Hills

The soft class cabins sleep 4 in ok comfort (pity the blanket is about 2/3 the width of the bed though…I either ended up sticking out the sides or the end!). We were joined by a guy from Italy travelling to Mongolia as part of a childhood dream after just completing his Enviromental Engineering degree. There is of course plenty of hot water provided at the end of each carriage, and we’d bought some neat plastic jars ideal for chinese tea (and luckily I also had some Ulong tea). Not so for the toilet paper, but we’d been forewaned of that one and came prepared with our own rolls.

I like train travel. You can walk around unlike a bus or plane. The scenery changed from Chinese city to industrial to farms, then after some mountains flat plains bounded by hills. As we approached Inner Mongolia the hils fell away and we were left with enless grass plains, some green, some brown (it varied quite a bit).

Inner MongoliaThe Gobi DesertGreat Wall (again)

We reached the border to Outer Mongolia about 10pm, but didn’t leave there till 12:40 ! We pulled into a station and had one bout of passport checks and immigration. Then we went to a large hall outside the town to get all the train bogies changed. Yup, just like used to be done at Albury between Vic and NSW the rail gauges chnage to a wider gauge in Mongolia,. All the carriages are seperated, then lifted off their bogies using 4 hydraulic cranes. The old ones are rolled out, the new ones in (half a train at a time), and then each carriage is lowered onto its new wheels. This all took about an hour or so, and then we sat there for unknown reasons for another 3/4 hour before finally all the carriages hooked up again. We weren’t allowed off our carriage (others were, dunno why). Back to the station again. This time more passport checks and a full search for hidden people, under the train, in the ceiling, under the bunks etc etc. After an age we finally left the stations. Half an hour later were were disturbed again for the Mongolian passport control. They waited till that was all done, then woke us all up again to do the customs forms. I’m sure this is all deliberate 🙂 Finally we were underway again about 2am. Slept reasonably well, but it was quite cold at times.

Bruce tries for 48V laptop powerLifting the CarriagesNew Bogies
UlaanBaatar HillsTaxi ride in floods to cityNassan Guesthouse
Morning was clear (a relief after smoggy China). I had some late breakfast in the dining car which had changed overnight from a Chinese one to a Mongolian one. It started to rain as we approached the hills around UlaanBaatar (apparently this is the more correct Anglicised spelling). The hills are largly bare grass, but are some forests on some of them. No doubt we’ll see more in the next week. We’re in a guest house in an old apartment building for tonight (US$4 each), and tommrow we go to the university (not sure which one as yet….). This internet cafe is across the road from the guesthouse. Anyway, that’s all from me for now. Feel free to ask any questions ! Well it’s been a bit of a while since I wrote the last report, and it may be even longer before I manage to send this out ! We’re now back in the Tientian Sports Hotel after a very interesting outing out of Beijing. By the way, there won’t be much mention of ARDF in this one, except for that one just then.
Nassan Guesthouse again

Very early tommorow morning we catch the train to Ulaan Baator, the capital of (Outer) Mongolia. It’s a 29 hour train journey, but we hope we are prepared ! Thank God I’m nearly over cold #2.