Leaving Moscow seems a very long time ago. 5 days on train with only a few 15-30 minutes stops each day can do that I guess. Add in to the equation that the train has no WIFI for passengers, there is internet on the train but only for the conductors, and you have a very interesting and time distorting trip, especially with the different time zones and differing times of dusk.
The trip started off with me and the conductor having an assertive discussion as to why he needed my whole ticket and not just the front part. This five minute chat was sorted when I went and spoke to a few of the other passengers who said that they had to give theirs too, but did not understand why. So I had to trust the ‘system’ and that I would not get caught out when getting off the train at the stops. I didn’t get stuck and neither did anyone else. In fact the conductors were very thoughtful and always ensured we got back on the train before it pulled away from the station.
For the first 3 and a bit days I had the whole cabin to myself which was very nice, though a little lonely. Towards the end of the first day or beginning of the second, I can’t remember, I spoke to the girl in the next cabin when the train stopped at one of the earlier stops, she was wearing a Glastonbury 2015 hoodie which made for a nice and easy conversation starter.
Originally from New Zealand, she is now living in London, and likes her travelling. She has been to quite a few places with friends, on her own and also whilst supporting her brother who won Para-Olympic Gold in Beijing and London, which is pretty cool. We had some good chats about politics, sport and life in general, this really helped the time go by.
At one of the earlier stops I offered to take a photo of large group of Indian travellers who were rotating around so everybody could be in at least one shot. The next few stops I was also asked to take a group shot.
Some of the views were amazing as you can see from the photos above (click the main image to open the gallery).
For the last day or so I was joined by a couple in my cabin. I didn’t catch their names, my excuse is that it was 2am during the time zone change over and I was half awake when we introduced ourselves and we did not need to use names after that. He was from Porto in Portugal and his Girlfriend was from Spain. There were both very friendly, sharing their food and books as well as having chats about the power of the mind.
The most serious part of the whole trip was leaving Russia the immigration officials were so serious and stern, not nice at all. Sit down, Stand up, Open That, Lift up that, Look at me. Then after they had looked at each of passports for the third time a huge very intimating hulk of man turned over our cabin, just to make sure nobody was hiding or we were not stashing stuff. Then after we each received our all clear stamp in our passport we were then on to the Mongolian border officials. They were not as stern but still did not really smile. I guess that is there job. After this was over I had a wash and went to bed and slept well, being woken up by the conductor so that we would be ready to leave when the train hit the platform and giving him time to prepare our cabin for the next inhabitants.
Arriving at Ulan Bator Station to start exploring felt slightly daunting, I don’t know why, I had to give myself a kind and gentle nudge to get going. It may have been that I had too long to think about things on the train. I was most defiantly unsettled. Leaving the station and walking to find the hotel felt unnerving , The area around the station was dilapidated. There clearly was a lot of poverty in this area and it did not match what I was expecting for my walk to find the hotel. But the walk was what I needed after being confined for 5 days and it also helped get my head back in gear.