Irkutsk to Ulaanbaatar, 22-23 July 2007
Ulaanbaatar Travel Blog› entry 1 of 1 › view all entries
Got to Irkutsk station at 5am and boarded the train straight away.
The train was pretty packed already but what we didnâ€™t realise straight away was how lucky we were to find our cabin empty! Poor Verity and Anthony entered their cabin to find what seemed like an entire Mongolian family including distant relatives tucked in every available nook and cranny. Getting rid of the unwanted cabin guests was a job for no one else but the Provost.
This was the start of what was to be an eventful journey....
We spent the first part acclimatising to the less sophisticated surroundings of this train compared to the last one, and dealing with the constant harassment from various Mongols trying to get into our cabin for the border crossing.
To top it all off, the air con didnâ€™t work so the cabin started to get searingly hot, but at least the view was pretty spectacular!
Unfortunately for Smurf, as the cabin got hotter and hotter my mood got worse and worse. The only respite came when the Swiss guy from the cabin next door, with some clever manoeuvre with a spoon, managed to open our window. This gave some relief when the train was moving, which bizarrely, it didnâ€™t seem to do most of the time....
We arrived at the first stop, and due to marginal confusion probably brought on by heat exhaustion, we didnâ€™t get off the train and missed what was to be our only opportunity in 36 hours to get a cold drink...bugger!
We reached the Russian border at 6pm and had our passports checked pretty swiftly before being told to get off the train for no apparent reason.
So, there we were standing on the platform in 35 degree heat, and guess what not a friggin thing nearby. The farmers market referred to by the Lonely Planet is a total red herring. From what we could see, itâ€™s a couple of stalls selling bottled water, which would be more suited to making tea, and warm cans of beer and soft drinks.
We eventually found the only shop in the vicinity and managed to get a few refreshment before spending the next couple of hours sitting on the platform waiting to be allowed back on the train.
Once back on the train we had to wait a further 1.5 hours in the sauna cabin before the train finally starting moving again. We were at the Russian border for a total of 5 hours and I can assure you, it was definitely the longest 5 hours of my life and an experience I never want to repeat.
And guess what....it doesnâ€™t stop there....we now had the delights of the Mongolian border to look forward to.
Fortunately this didnâ€™t take as long, but as the sun started to set, out came every insect imaginable attracted by the light. The train carriage was swarming so we had no choice but to shut the cabin door and turn out our light, to minimise the bug bite potential.
As the train started to move again, something hard, black and a little too large for my liking, flew through the window into my hair. Clearly as the bug hating girl that I am, I let out a big scream, had a mild hissy fit and made Smurf swap beds so I was as far out of harmâ€™s way as I possibly could be in a tiny train cabin! Oh yeah, and obviously the window now had to be shut otherwise I wouldnâ€™t sleep.
The commotion continued through the night as various Mongols transported goods up and down the train, opening and slamming our cabin door as they went. We were the lucky ones who got the cabin with a broken lock on the door making for a noisy night!! First class comfort, I think not!!
At 7.30am we rolled in to Ulaanbaatar station....praise the Lord!!!!