July 7th -8th
17.07.2018 28 °C
With a 5 am start, we headed off via the metro to Beijing Central station where we started seeing a few more westerners, some young backpackers, but a predominance of ageing 'hippies' (like us spending their children's inheritance).
As we left the built up areas the view from the window was of craggy rocks and low level hills covered with scrubby vegetation, gradually it gave way to flatter ground with sparsely spread trees, hardly any animals and few crops....as we continued west it began to resemble the Mallee and still further west the land was dead flat and very dry, like Coober Pedy but not as red.
There were lonely clusters of buildings every so often usually built around a rusting cement manufacturing plant; these places looked very lonely and I feel that life for the Chinese living here would be very different to that of the cosmopolitan Chinese of the big cities.
Toward the end of the day it started raining and by the time we stopped at the boarder it was pouring.
We arrived at the Chinese/Mongolian border at about 10:30 pm their time and we had to produce our passports and had a very long wait. The Chinese military greeted us, standing to attention on the platform in their protective rain gear. One of our fellow travellers took a photo of them and immediately two soldiers leapt on board the train to track him down and insist he delete the image. While there John discovered Harbin beer and had to try one (mainly because of Caitira who resides there at the moment)
Crossing the boarder took, all up about six hours as we went through various passport checks and the train was lifted off the Chinese tracks and put on the Mongolian tracks the gauge in Mongolia and Russia is narrower, you can feel the difference too as the train shakes along the narrower tracks.
Passing through Mongolia the view continues to change, it is still very flat, the Steppes, but there is a gradually increasing coverage of of green and we are seeing more cattle and horses. Along the route there are small groups of houses (about 4 or 5) but everyone has a playground for the children.
Our compartment is small but sufficient with four bunk beds and a small table between.
Arrived in Ulaanbaatar about 2.30 pm after 31 hrs on board we bartered with locals for a cab. The Mongolian driver picked my case up as if it weighed nothing!!! Negotiating downtown peak hour (pop. about 1 mill) we found our first Airbnb. Met by a very friendly lady, and finished the day with a meal in an Irish Pub, yes I know!!!!!!!