Day 17 - Sun 15 May 05, Ulan Bator, Mongolia
Midnight 45, Mongolian visa stamped - country number 60 - Yipee, but I'm too tired to celebrate and the toilets have been locked since 20:30 and I really need a pee now! (Hmmm - because Ulan Bator time is back one hour, all of that happened yesterday!)
There's obviously a lot of smuggling going on, lots of boxes where being moved around the train last night, and the locals in the end carriage that I thought were smugglers, are in fact railway employees! The lady carriage attendants are heavily involved in the bogey changing - climbing under the carriages when they are hauled up.
The countryside outside is now desert, but I've just seen a lake, so there must be some form of rainfall. We now have a new dining car, and for breakfast I had pancakes and a cheese omelette, which was very nice. Relations with my carriage attendant have gone down hill. I have been smiling at her from the start of the journey, and I've never had a flicker from her. She's now trying to communicate that she wants paying for the crap coffee that she's been trying to peddle. I handed all the packets to here, and I got a 'tut' and a roll of her eyes. So I'm having nothing more to do with her, my door is shut and locked, and my headphones are on to drown out her music that she plays across the PA.
Spent the rest of the journey getting ready for getting off the train - After a bit of a mix up we eventually met up with our guide on the platform of Ulan Bator train station. As he was leading us across the car park we got targeted by a bunch of pick pockets, the guy in front of me got squeezed between two cars, and I saw hands unzipping the pocket of his cargo pants. I shouted an pushed, and suddenly everyone disappeared.
The next couple of hours were taken up with a guided tour of all the sights of Ulan Bator - The currency exchange counter, the Buddest temple, the main square, and the soviet style monument on the edge of town. The we drove out to the Ger Camp, it really is in the middle of nowhere, on a flat(ish) plain surrounded by hills.
The views are magnificent, and we walked up a hill to see if Guy could get a signal on his mobile phone (which he did, and that cost me a dollar!). Supper was a veggy starter, followed by a main course of beef in pasta shells.
I managed to get some shots of the sunset - The Ger itself is fantastic, the wooden framework is so colourful, and even though it's cold out there, the little wood burning stove in the centre keeps you toasty and warm!
The showers are broken at the moment, no hot water, but we're told that they should be fixed tomorrow. I'm looking forward to a shower after being on the train.
There are so many stars to be seen even if it is almost a full moon, and I saw five satellites!
Fell asleep with the light of the fire playing on the Ger wall. A magic end to a magic day, in a magic place.