Sunday, May 27, 2007

Life on the rails .... part 3

Finally the Ural mountains and some scenery. Or at least it would be if it wasn't dark - for about 30 minutes we had pine clad valleys before the lights went out and another night of gently rocking along trying to get some sleep.

Another 24 hours and we arrive in Krasnyorsk, beyond which we cross into more picturesque Eastern Siberia. Finally some decent platform food - we took on supplies of hot sausage rolls and Siberian dumplings at Llanskaya. By this stage our body clocks are all over the place - as well as gaining an hour or two each day, the train and everything in it continues to run on Moscow time right up to the border. Breakfast today was served at 3am. Another semi-interesting train fact is the toliets - press flush and you get a nice view of the tracks, it just deposits it there for nature to do the rest. Of course if you're really lucky and the wind is right you get blowback ... a little like the winners challenge on the Crystal Maze. Nice.
After a pictureseque climb through logging country we settled in for our fourth night aboard. We set our alarm early & awoke to the scenic highlight of the journey - Lake Baikal, the largest freshwater lake on the planet and we had great views for around 3 hours as our train followed its shores for 180km before heading South for Ulan Ude, our last major stop before the Mongolian border.
After Ulan Ude we left the mountains and a dramatic change of scenery and weather as we hit sunshine and the rolling plains that would lead us to Mongolia, as we followed the course of the Selenge Gol river.
The Russian border crossing was a hellish 4 hour, full toilet lockdown, culminating in us clearing immigration only to roll out of the station straight into a floodlit pen, where once again the undercarraige was inspected at length. Seriously, someone should tell these guys the cold war ended a long time ago. So at last we made it over the border, and arrived 21km later at the far more relaxed Mongolian border - we're liking this place already. Next stop Ulan Bator ...

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