Wicked Winterfrost

Mongolia!

Posted in Mongolia, Trans-Siberian by talikas on June 10, 2009

uaz_stepp

An early wake up call and finally Ulanbaator! We were met in the station by our local guide, who greeted us with a reassuring smile and an offer to join him on a 12-day off the road trip in the central and southern parts of Mongolia. So, a few hours later, after quick touring the the ghostly capital with half-empty houses and unfinished construction work, we met our driver, threw our bags to a cutely nostalgic UAZ minivan and hit the road. Well, we didn’t relly “hit the road”, because in Mongolia there are no roads. Instead there are muddy holes, sandy paths, dry dirt fields and it seems that the few vehicles around just drive in random directions… And our car was jumping up and down the hilly landscape, dust flying in the air and we, overwhelmed with the magnificent views, tried with shaking hands to take photos, but pathetically failed, and thus stayed our mouths open, noses almost against the window, staring the neverending calm steppes, lonely horsemen, goats… I guess we made it.

p2ikeseloojang_stepp

On The Train Again

Posted in Mongolia, Russia, Trans-Siberian by talikas on June 10, 2009

james

Even though we were dead tired after the Baikal adventures, it was hard to fall asleep because both of us were overexcited about finally seeing Mongolia. Even in the morning at 5 AM on our Irkutsk-Ulanbaator train, we were lying on our bunkbeds in wagon number 5 with eyes wide open and dreaming about vast green steppes, wild horses and distant mountains. We happened to share our train with our English friend James whom we had met earlier in the Moscow-Irkutsk train. Despite getting no fish from Baikal and losing both his tent and sleeping bag on the way, James was glowing positive energy and proved once again to be a great travelling companion.

The train ride took about 26 hours, 6 hours of which we spent on the Russian-Mongolian border filling out tens and tens of different papers. Compared to the Moscow-Irkutsk train, where we saw only 3 tourists, this train was rather popular with Belgian, French, English and Australian travellers. Juliette managed successfully to hide her nationality and not become buddies with the (snobbish looking :P) French backpackers even though we glued a French flag on our kupé door. Instead, we played cards with Mongolian children, learnt their hkhkhkh-sounding language and got to know a bit more the philosophy of the harsh-looking-but-goodhearted Russian people.

And then, suddenly, it was dark, the French wine turned out to be Moldovian again, Aleksander reminded us “not to put salt on the sugar” and we tried to sleep, sleep, sleep although we were both kind of nervous about the next day…