Our train ride to Ulaan Baatar was another overnighter. We had a few hours of daylight for the first part of the trip and managed to see some stunning mountainous scenery and small lakes.This was our first Chinese train – it was not quite so cushy as the Russian ones we had been on! It was very grimey and the lower bunks got quite cold at night. We had to go through customs on the train at the transition from Russia to Mongolia. This took around 2.5 hours, and was at the time when you wished you could go to bed! They also locked the toilets for about 3 hours, so I had to cross my legs. First of all, the Russian border control came through to check passports and our exit papers to ensure we hadn’t overstayed our welcome and they brought a sniffer dog into each compartment. I found my heart rate went up a bit even though I knew I had nothing naughty in my bag! Then we had t fill in three separate forms for Mongolia, including an Ebola virus declaration. More passport checks, more bag ‘searches’. These were a joke. The lady made us get out our bulky rucksacks from under the seats and open them. She glanced at the thing at the top of the bag and said, ‘cosmetics?’ – I said yes, and she nodded for us to put the bags away. Lucky they didn’t find the weaponry stashed underneath the cosmetic bag, ha ha! (In case any border control police are reading this, that is a joke). Thankfully, we and our two Dutch companions made it through without any problems. Even Luke’s beard got off scot free. Occasionally the Chinese conductor in the carriage would wander down the corridor making bibbling noises. By bibbling, I do not mean speaking Chinese, but literally going, ‘blibbly bibble bibble bibble blibby…’ in a high pitched voice and then chuckling to himself. It was an interesting journey!
We arrived early this morning in Ulaan Baator, the capital of Mongolia. We passed out for a few hours in our hostel and then went into the centre to try and find a place to fix Luke’s laptop, which had died a few days before. I lost my hat, and then lost Luke whilst looking for my hat! I found Luke, but not the hat, sadly. (That came out a bit wrong, ha ha!) We eventually found a computer shop, but after discovering he couldn’t fix the computer, the man sent us to another shop, and told us to ask for Jamba. We walked into a dingy looking yellow painted building. Inside there were several booths, with numbers at the top. Each booth contained a man, surrounded by computer parts. We asked for Jamba and were sent to booth 5. Booth 5 had a big crowd around it and even more computer parts than any of the other booths – we surmised that Jamba must be a bit of a legend. It really felt like a scene from Star Wars, in the droid workshop or similar. Jamba (not Jabba) was an affable chap and established the cause of the problem and said it would be fixed in two hours. After buying a new hat and eating dinner, we returned and it was indeed fixed! And it only cost £3. Bargain. Walking down the street after leaving the computer caves, I was given a little card by a bunch of students, that said I had been accepted into the Mongolian Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as I was SO special. Good, eh?
We are staying at a lovely hostel called Sunpath. The lady here organises tours around Mongolia, and as we are here for 2 weeks, we have decided to make the most of it and go on a 12 day tour of the Gobi desert and central Mongolia. Starting tomorrow! We will be staying with nomadic families in gers (like yurts) every night, we will be doing some horse trekking, and hopefully visiting some hot springs! No shower for 12 days!!! We are stocking up on baby wipes. It is also going to be VERY cold. So after this epic load of typing, I am off to bed to get some sleep before the adventure begins – you won’t hear from us for a while now….