There was an atmosphere of a school excursion as a bunch of foreigners boarded the Trans Siberian Express in Beijing. I shared a cabin with Peter and Saskia from Holland and enjoyed their sense of humour and ready laugh.
I was relieved to leave the smog and noise of Beijing behind. The beauty of train travel is that you get to sneak a peak into people’s back yards. The country was so steep with villages in the valleys. On the way to Mongolia I saw a man washing his sheep in a dam, donkeys pulling a cart being overtaken by a new but dusty BMW, kids in baseball caps herding sheep and goats, acre upon acre of cornfields, shallow rivers running through valleys filled with light grey silt, contoured hillsides, an overloaded 3 wheel truck chugging up a hill, the Great Wall skirting the hills and peasant houses overshadowed by skyscrapers. My neck was sore from trying to look out of two windows at once.
The passengers were all foreigners and funnily enough I met a farmer from Port Lincoln who knew someone I knew. It’s not such a big world.
As we crossed over into Mongolia the cabin became filled with dust, not the fine red kind I’m used to but a coarse grey dust. I had a fantastic sleep as the train rocked along and woke to the endless plains of the southern Gobi Desert in Mongolia where gers and ponies dotted the landscape.
Arriving in UB I was struck by the mix of gers, old soviet buildings and new skyscrapers. This place has such an atmosphere. I spent today visiting a buddhist monastery and the National museum. I was stopped in the square by a group of local teenagers with big smiles who wanted to practise their english. The traffic is mad here, apparently the most dangerous thing you can do in Mongolia is cross the road. Car horns beep endlessly but people seem to do it with a smile on their face rather than the aggressive beeping in Beijing.I am staying with Jane in her apartment down town, there is a great view of the hollywood style Chengis Khan on the hillside opposite, sort of cute really. Another day in UB tomorrow then off to the Gobi on Saturday. Still missing my family terribly but distracted by all that is around me.